by Paul Jamison

Chapter 33

Paul's viewpoint…

Once we'd all recovered from the emotions of the group hug, matters calmed down a tad as one by one we made use of the downstairs cloakroom and washed our faces. I just splashed some water over mine from the kitchen sink and dried myself on a hand towel while the others sorted themselves out.

Rick did the same and as he dried his face he turned towards me with a wicked smile on his face. I grinned back and as he sidled up alongside he whispered

"Didn't mind, did you?"

"No, the result was spectacular, you couldn't have planned that in a million years… all 'cos of a loose shoelace…" I giggled again.

"Yeah, sod isn't it… never seem to have my camera handy when these things happen."

"I know," and turning back to the lads who had by then arrived back in the kitchen said "Anyway, things to do guys. Anyone who's not put their presents around the tree, please do it now, and that includes you too Rick, that's if you've actually wrapped them?"

"Hey, all done and dusted last night… if you don't mind," Rick replied grinning and then in a private aside said "I'll just go check in the dining room to make sure all's set up, okay."

"Yes, would you see that everything's okay in there?" I quietly said.

Rick nodded back and went off to do that. He was back in a minute or so and said

"All ready. We may as well carry the extra chairs through now too, while the lads are all in the sitting room?"

"Yes, good plan." So between us we quickly checked the seating and place settings. I returned to the kitchen and Rick went to join the boys in the sitting room where they'd all adjourned to watch Robbie the Reindeer - Close Encounters of the Herd Kind on Christmas morning TV.

Marcus's viewpoint…

Mum and I had just laughed our way through the Robbie the Reindeer animated film on TV when the oven timer went off.

"I hope that means our Christmas dinner is ready. At least the turkey breast can come out to rest while the veggies cook," Mum said.

I stretched, yawned and said "Right, need me to do anything?"

"Yes, would you set the table in the dining room… Wow! That's the first time I've been able to say that. We've never had a separate room before," Mum replied.

"No, where is everything?" I asked.

"Um… I'm not really sure, so many were helping yesterday and they were all very good as asking where I wanted stuff, but I'm sure I can't remember half of what I said. It was all happening in such a whirl," mum replied.

"Oh, okay. I'll just go in there and look about then," I said.

I got up and went through to the dining room to see a nice teak finish table with four chairs in the centre and a matching modern sideboard along the wall opposite the door. I went over and started opening the drawers and cupboards to see where stuff might be. I found a plain white tablecloth and put that on the table and then laid up two sets of cutlery on opposite sides of the table. I found our set of place mats and laid one each for our places and the rest down the centre for the hot serving dishes. Then I spotted a pair of candlesticks that'd been on our chest of drawers in my mum's room at home. After I'd looked a bit further, I discovered a pack of red candles. I set those up on the table to provide a bit of a finish. I stood back a moment and satisfied it all looked good I went to find my mum in the kitchen.

"All ready, Marcus?" she asked as I entered.

"Yeah, I found everything in the sideboard. Looks nice too. We'll have to use that room to eat… It's so much nicer than slumming in a sitting room or kitchen," I said.

"For weekends and visitors, perhaps. I'm not doing that for everyday breakfasts or suppers though. It's way too much to set out and put away every time for that," mum explained as she checked the roast potatoes, before turning up the heat under the roasting tin she was stirring on the hob with the gravy.

"So're we nearly ready?" I asked.

"Yes, about five minutes. Marcus, you'll find a bottle of Cava in the fridge. It's a bit of a treat as we've so much to celebrate this Christmas. I picked it up yesterday, when I went to the supermarket with Mrs Sutherland," she explained.

"Oh brilliant, that's great. I don't suppose you've any idea where our wine glasses are?" I asked grinning away at Mum and added "or it'll be coffee mugs otherwise." I giggled.

"Umm… I'd imagine the sideboard, in the dining room, or if not there one of these cupboards in the kitchen." She indicated with a glance as she'd both hands occupied with the gravy making. "I really can't remember even seeing them unpacked, let alone where they were put as I was out at the shops with Mrs Sutherland for over an hour."

"Yeah, I never even saw you go, I was so busy getting the boxes into the right rooms and then unpacking my own stuff," I replied as I opened a couple of the kitchen cupboard doors and saw our six wine glasses on a shelf in the wall cupboard next to the cooker.

"Found them," I said and took down two of them to wash and dry at the sink as they looked a little dusty.

"When you've done that, open the bottle and pour us both a glass, Marcus, please," Mum said.

"Okay," I replied.

"Just a couple more minutes for the veggies now. Then we can go and eat our Christmas lunch," Mum said as she poured the gravy into a server. I carried it through to the dining room and set it on the table. Quickly returning to the kitchen, I saw Mum was starting to carve the turkey breast.

"That looks so good," I commented, licking my lips in anticipation of the meal as I started to open the bottle of Cava.

"Careful Marcus, use a cloth and ease the cork out gently. It might be a bit lively and we don't want it spraying over everything."

"Okay, Mum," I replied.

I'd just peeled the foil away from the head of the bottle to reveal the wire cage. I carefully released that from the champagne style cork. I wrapped a tea towel around the cork and head of the bottle and eased the cork gently. After a few seconds the cork gave and started to slide from the bottle. I held it away from myself in case it shot out too quickly, but with a small 'pop' and shuuuuuushing noise it came free and I started pouring the golden, now lively foaming wine, into the two glasses I'd got ready. Once I'd filled the glasses, I put the bottle back in the fridge and carried them through to the dining room putting one by each place setting. I hurried back to the kitchen to see Mum had finished carving and had put three slices on each of two dinner plates.

"I've only got the veggies and 'pigs in blankets' to do now. Carry these plates through, please, Marcus."

I took the plates and put them on the dining table. Mum followed with a dish of sprouts, carrots and peas. I returned to the kitchen to get the dishes of roast potatoes and pigs in blankets that were ready and put them on the table.

"That's it. Let's sit and enjoy this Marcus," Mum said.

"Mmmm, yes, it all looks way better than last year," I said as I sat down at my place and began to help myself from the serving dishes. Once we'd both done that we raised glasses and Mum said

"Happy Christmas, Marcus."

I replied "Happy Christmas, Mum," just as my mobile bleeped for two messages. We both took a sip of our drinks and I put down my glass to check my phone. I saw a Happy Christmas can't wait to see you tomorrow – Chris, and a Happy Christmas mate – Dougie, displayed. I quickly replied with the same to both and added to Chris's that I'd definitely see him the next day and as I did so felt a pleasant feeling come over me that we'd perhaps made a move that would be good, in fact very good indeed, for me and Mum.

"Who was that, Marcus?" Mum asked.

"Oh, just Dougie and Chris saying Happy Christmas," I replied.

Mum nodded and we both raised our glasses again, took another drink and then we began to eat our lunch.

Once we'd finished eating I helped Mum take all the stuff back to the kitchen and load the dishwasher. Then we went through to the sitting room and flopped down on the sofa.

"Shall we do presents now?" Mum suggested.

"Oh, yes. Let's," I replied, getting up from my seat and kneeling on the floor by the tree, pulled out the wrapped presents that we'd set around the base.

I passed the ones for my mother over to her and made a small pile of my own. Then I gathered them up, returned to my place on the sofa and sorted through to choose which to open first.

My mum had opened a couple of hers before I even got round to deciding which to deal with first and suddenly said

"I'll have to watch what I say when I'm out shopping with you, Marcus. You really shouldn't have spent your money on these, but they're lovely. Thank you," she said holding up the two hand printed silk scarves that I'd seen her admire when we'd been out shopping one Saturday some weeks back.

I grinned back at Mum and picked up a packet that was from my Uncle James. I carefully undid the wrapping and found a small jeweller's box inside. I quickly opened it to reveal a pair of silver rainbow cufflinks. I showed my mum who grinned at me and said

"Well, I told your Uncle James what you wanted. He was a little surprised, but found those for you and hopes they are right?"

"Oh, yes, deffo," I smiled back contentedly.

"I s'pose they're to go with the shirts you asked me for?" Mum added.

"Yep, that's the idea," I replied, grinning back at Mum and kept my thoughts to myself.

Paul's viewpoint…

The oven timer sounded and I removed the turkey from the oven and pushed the meat thermometer into the breast of the bird. It slowly climbed the scale but was not quite where it should be. So I returned the bird to the oven for the last thirty minutes of suggested cooking time, checked the roast potatoes, turning them in the tray as needed, and returning them to the oven reset the timer just as there was a knock on the kitchen door and a few seconds later Vanessa, followed by her mother, Craig and finally Jamie who all trooped into the kitchen.

"Happy Christmas, Paul, what's the state of play?" Vanessa asked cheerily.

"And to you all, too," I replied over the general hubbub of happy Christmases from everyone. We're about an hour off eating," I explained.

"Where's everyone?" Craig asked grinning.

"Oh, they're all in the sitting room watching TV," I replied.

"Craig, Jamie, you go and join them. Mother, let's get organised," Vanessa said as she turned towards Mrs Smythe.

"Should we be getting the pudding underway," Mrs Smythe?" I asked.

"It's Marjorie, and yes, I think so, if we're about an hour off sitting down that should work out right. It'll need about two hours to reheat through," Marjorie replied.

"Right, we'd better set it up and started then."

Vanessa and Marjorie went through to the utility room and brought back their large steamer and the Christmas pudding. They set them up on the only spare ring on the hob and after glancing at the time poured a kettle full of boiling water into the steamer base and left it to simmer away.

"Right, what's next, Mother?" Vanessa asked.

"Is the soup ready to warm through?" she replied.

"Yes, I thought we'd do that almost at the last minute actually. I'll heat the tureen first with hot water and bring it through just as people sit down then it'll still be pretty hot. I've got the dishes and plates all in the dining room on the warmer already," I explained and added "Would you like to take a look?"

"Oh, yes please," Marjorie replied and added "I've not seen your dining room all set up. It'd be good to see it before the hordes mess it all up."

I laughed and led the ladies through to the dining room.

"Oh, that's just so beautiful," Marjorie exclaimed.

"Yes, indeed that's really quite something," Vanessa added, then turning to me she said "I see all has gone according to plan," as she indicated the full table set for twelve.

"Yes, as far as I know it has. When did you know about that?"

"Oh, from yesterday. Frank mentioned what he was leaving early for," Vanessa replied.

"It was a case of the fewer who knew the safer that one was," I replied smiling.

"Oh, yes, definitely, no offence taken at all," Vanessa agreed and asked

"Do any of them have a clue?"

"Yes, young Chris has sussed it. He was in the kitchen helping me late last night and he heard me say we needed twelve places for dinner and then Frank arrived home and Chris heard voices outside and simply got four when he put two and two…" I trailed off.

"Will he keep the secret?" Vanessa asked.

"He has so far, but I think he might give a knowing grin when it all goes down… who wouldn't? It's such a biggy after all," I explained.

"True enough," Vanessa replied and we all returned to the kitchen.

Vanessa went out to the utility room to bring in the pan of home-made tomato soup.

"So, what's still to do?" she asked as she set the soup down on the kitchen table.

"Parmesan parsnips to coat and bake in the oven to brown and crisp," I said.

"Oh they sound good. Where did you find that recipe?" Marjorie asked.

"Oh, here," I replied, showing Marjorie the recipe book, "but we'll have to wait till the turkey's out and resting before they can go in," I explained.

"No problem. There'll be plenty of time for them to brown while we're having the soup," she said after reading the recipe.

I nodded in agreement with Marjorie and was continuing with the rest of the preparations when there was another knock on the back door. Vanessa being nearest opened it to reveal Frank who hurried in from the bitter cold outside.

"Happy Christmas," I began.

"Yes, indeed, and the same to you all," Frank replied before going on. "Right, state of play. The parcels have arrived and are ready to be opened," he said in a coded reference to the goings on of the day before.

"It's okay, Frank, they know now," I grinned and added "and so does Chris, or he thinks he does as he was in here when you all got home last night. He's not said a thing, but I bet we'll get a knowing look from him when the time comes."

"Yes, I'm sure… he's quite savvy, isn't he?" Frank grinned.

"Yes, very quick witted," I agreed.

"So, what's the plan? How do you want to play it?" Frank asked.

"I thought I'd get a tray of glasses ready and take them into the sitting room, then send Liam into the kitchen to get the bottles of sherry I have ready. He'll then be by the door so if the front door bell rings then we can send him to answer it," I suggested.

"Too complicated," Frank replied. "There's too much to go wrong on timing. Get the drinks sorted, then send Liam into the kitchen for the bottles except he'll find them here waiting okay… it'll be much easier to slip them in here via the back door."

"Yes, okay," I agreed.

"Are we ready then?" Frank asked.

"No, a few more minutes. Once the turkey's out and resting the rest can carry on cooking. Then there'll be nothing spoilt by what's going to happen," I explained.

"Let's get the bird out then," Vanessa said as the oven timer went off. We quickly got the bird out and settled onto the server to rest, covered with foil. We put what still needed oven time back in and then started the soup to warm. Then turning to Frank I said

"All set. Let's get this show on the road…"

Frank nodded in agreement and left the same way he'd come in to collect the parcels. Vanessa, Marjorie and I got the tray of glasses ready and set the two bottles of sherry on the kitchen table in easy view of the door and I followed Marjorie and Vanessa out of the kitchen to join everyone in the sitting room. A few seconds behind me came Frank who discreetly nodded to me as he closed the sitting room door.

More 'Happy Christmases' were exchanged amongst the boys and Rick with the newcomers and I set the tray of glasses down on the large coffee table. Once done I straightened up and said.

"Oh, I've forgotten the sherry. Liam, would you just go and get it from the kitchen table?"

"Yes, sure," Liam replied and got up from his seat on the sofa and left the room.

Jeremy's viewpoint…

Michael and I had spent a happy week in Hong Kong seeing the sights and just enjoying the time together and very much cementing our relationship. When the week was up we packed our things and some souvenirs and we set off again to the airport at the crack of dawn for the second leg of our holiday. Once aboard the aircraft we both settled down to a fourteen hour flight. We both knew that we were heading into some cold winter conditions when we landed and so had packed something warm to put on as soon as we'd arrived. In fact that was pretty much all there was, apart from our travel documents, in our carry on luggage.

We emerged from the aircraft after an uneventful flight to freezing conditions generally. There had obviously been some considerable snowfalls over recent days as the cleared snow was lining the runways and taxiways at the airport. We quickly made our way to Immigration control and I had to wait for Michael as he was on his New Zealand passport and mine was a United Kingdom one. Then quickly on to baggage reclaim and through the customs hall. As soon as we were through, though, I looked around the arrivals hall for the person who was to meet us.

"Over there," Michael said to me, indicating with his hand a trim middle-aged man holding a hand written card sign with RUSSELL in red felt pen on it.

"Yes, I think you're right," I replied, as we both made our way over to the gentleman.

"Jeremy and Michael?" the man asked.

"Yes, that's us, I'm Jeremy and here's Michael," I replied as I nodded towards my boyfriend as I spoke.

"Commander Frank Barnes. Welcome to Britain," he answered smiling broadly, offering us his hand as he did so.

We both shook his hand noting that it was a firm no-nonsense type of grip.

"I've been delegated to meet you guys and take you back to my place for tonight. You'll meet the madhouse tomorrow at Christmas lunch," he said smiling at us both.

"How many are there now?" I asked.

"Well, it varies, depending on whose friends are staying over, but anything up to eight or so. They've just added one more lad as a resident… Um… Christopher, very sad circumstances of his mother's awful sudden death, almost in front of the lad's eyes. Road traffic accident at a bus-stop, both the lad and his mum were injured, but she much more so and didn't make it… terribly traumatic, but now hopefully resolved with his living with my son, William, and yours too of course."

"Yes, we were brought up to date on that with Rick's last email before we set off," I explained.

"Oh good. You won't need anything more from me on that then," Frank replied.

We'd reached the car park and Frank unlocked the rear of his hatchback and we heaved our luggage into the space and then took our seats in the car. Michael sat in the back. So I sat next to Commander Barnes in the front. A few seconds later we were off and heading for the airport exit and then towards the motorway as Commander Barnes explained we had some forty miles to go.

"How long will it take us?" I asked once we were underway.

"About an hour if we're lucky with the traffic and it's not too icy," he answered and added "Now, have you guys had a meal? Are you hungry? If so, I think we'd better stop somewhere on the way, as I've not much in at home… mostly convenience meals and breakfast stuff. When I'm home I eat a lot of main meals next door with my son and the guys."

"We had airline food on the plane. It's okay, but not that good. I don't know about you, Michael, but I could do with something to eat if that's possible at this time on a Christmas Eve," I replied.

"I could certainly eat something," Michael agreed.

"In which case we'll do that sooner rather then later, as pubs and eating houses won't stay open too late tonight, I fear," Commander Barnes replied.

He pulled into the car park of a big roadside public house that advertised 'Food All Day'. We all got out and Frank locked the car and we made our way inside.

Once there we ordered from the menu and sat down to await our food. It was speedy in arriving and we'd hardly had time to introduce ourselves properly to Frank before the meals arrived.

"I just can't believe we're eating a hearty steak pie in December," Michael commented as he saw the puff pastry topped pie with vegetables, chips and a small jug of gravy as a side.

"It's just what we need in this weather," Frank remarked back.

"I know. It's just I've never been in the northern hemisphere before," Michael explained. "It's easy for Jeremy. He lived here for thirty years," he added.

"Point taken," Frank said. "I keep forgetting that it's just Jeremy who's had the experiences of both hemispheres."

We finished our meal almost in silence and then Frank said

"Best we get a move on… it's well into night now and very cold… we don't want to be caught in any fresh snowfalls and some are due tonight if the forecast is to be believed and I think it is."

We left the pub and set off again to the motorway and the journey to Frank's. After about an hour's driving we left the motorway and some ten minutes later arrived and pulled quietly into his drive. Frank turned off the engine and turned to us both and said

"There're still lights on in their kitchen. Best we be as quiet as we can as we don't want any inquisitive teenagers coming out to see what's what, do we?"

"No way," I agreed grinning and we all got out as quietly as we could. Once we'd retrieved our luggage from the back of the car Frank said in a hushed voice

"This way, guys. We'll use the back door. It's quieter." We followed Frank quietly up his drive and into his house through the kitchen door.

Once inside his kitchen and with the door firmly closed, Frank welcomed us both again and suggested we had a little Christmas drink. Michael and I sat down at the kitchen table while Frank busied himself with glasses. Then he produced a bottle of fine single malt whisky. We all enjoyed a 'wee dram' as it's known. Raising our glasses together we said 'Happy Christmas'. Frank added 'and to a happy Christmas re-union too'. We both nodded. He then showed us to his guest room and after we'd thanked him for meeting us and for his hospitality, we decided to turn in so as to make the best of the day ahead.

The following morning I woke at just after eight according to the bedside clock, and could hear some activity in the kitchen. I shivered as it had become cold. I was not used to English winters! Michael stirred next to me and emerged from under the duvet

"Christ! It looks bloody freezing outside," he exclaimed.

"It's cold, but only a degree or two under zero," I replied grinning, then added "You're simply not used to this in December, are you? Especially as we left Christchurch in summer and it was just as warm in Hong Kong too."

"Yeah," Michael shivered and added "It's all right for you. You're used to this."

"Not for the last six years or so, but the memory's come back with a vengeance," I laughed, gave Michael a hug and got out of bed, padded to the window and pulled back the curtains to see a Christmas card scene of snow totally covering the gardens for as far as I could see.

"Come and see," I said, turning back to Michael as he hugged the duvet around him. "We have a White Christmas."

"What! For real?" Michael asked, as he hurriedly climbed out of bed pulling the duvet with him and then shuffled over to join me at the window wrapped in it.

"It's amazing! I've hardly ever seen this before… Snow is so rare in Christchurch… We had the first heavy snow this winter for years. Do you remember late July?" Michael said as he took in the vista of snow covered gardens.

"Yes, I do. It was murder getting into the office. Brits get it most years though," I replied.

I hugged him to me again and we shared a Christmas morning kiss. We'd just broken away when there was a discreet knock on the door and Frank's voice came through saying

"Good morning, guys, I hope you both slept well. I've got tea and toast on the go in the kitchen when you're ready. Okay."

"Okay, Frank, we'll be with you in a few minutes. Just going to shower first if that's all right," I called back.

"Of course. I'll see you in the kitchen as soon as you're dressed," Frank replied as he returned to the kitchen.

We showered quickly, dressed in warm clothing and joined Frank.

After a light breakfast of tea, toast and home made marmalade that Frank mentioned was made by Paul and Rick next door Michael asked Frank what the Christmas dinner was like as he'd never actually had one at home, it usually being the height of summer and since it was generally thought inappropriate for that time of year.

"I've seen Paul's list so I can tell you it's a pretty substantial feast. I think it's a home made tomato soup for starters, followed by the traditional roast turkey with herb stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry relish, roast potatoes, roast parsnips with Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, and of course gravy," Frank reeled off.

"What on earth are 'pigs in blankets'?" Michael asked.

"Oh, they're little pork chipolata sausages wrapped in streaky bacon and roasted… quite delicious, I assure you," Frank explained and added "then after all that there's a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy cream."

"But I'll be utterly stuffed after eating half of all that," Michael replied.

"Yes, you will, and so'll everyone else be too. So nothing odd there. We'll all just collapse into sofas in the sitting room to doze it off," he said jokingly.

I knew from my own previous experience that it was pretty much what happened and said.

"Frank's right. You'll be utterly stuffed afterwards and from my own memory you won't be able to move for a while. I think they plan to open presents and stuff in the sitting room after the meal," I explained.

"Yes, Paul said that'd be the plan," Frank confirmed.

"So what's the plan till we go next door?" I asked.

"Nothing special. Just relax until it's time to go over there. I know it's a little frustrating to have to wait… especially as you've come half way across the world for this, but we all thought, and I know you've discussed this with Rick and Paul by phone, that it was best to reveal yourselves, just before Christmas dinner as that's when everyone'll be there," Frank explained.

"Oh, yes, of course. The Sutherlands won't be arriving until after twelve, will they? I'd forgotten about that, and I certainly want Liam's boyfriend Craig to be there for him as well," I replied.

So we relaxed in Frank's sitting room and enjoyed general conversation on world affairs. He was particularly interested in a New Zealand perspective on economic matters and the time slipped by quickly.

Meanwhile next door, Liam's viewpoint…

We'd all been watching Christmas morning TV in the sitting room when Craig and Jamie arrived and joined us. Craig sat down with me on the sofa and gave me a quick kiss.

"Oh, do you have to be all yucky straightaway?" Jamie complained, laughing away.

"Mind your own… brat," Craig replied to his brother as he settled down beside me on the sofa and added quietly "So, have you got them on?"

I coloured up a little and began to reply "Err…" but Will had caught Craig's words and gleefully announced

"Oh, yes he HAS got them on and amazing they are too!" he hooted to us all.

I tried valiantly to explain what had happened earlier in the kitchen, but was quickly interrupted by Will who graphically retold the story of his tripping and yanking down my joggers in the process revealing all to everyone in the kitchen, to much amusement from Jamie and commiserating looks from Craig.

"All right. It was quite funny," I admitted to all grinning, and settled back down on the sofa holding hands with Craig while we all watched the remainder of the Robbie the Reindeer animation.

Once the film was over Rick, Mrs Sutherland and Grandma Sutherland appeared followed by Paul with a big tray of glasses. As soon as everyone had settled down on the sofas or armchairs, and Paul set the tray of glasses down on the big coffee table once I'd moved some books and magazines out of the way for him. Paul glanced around and said

"Right, everyone's here, so time for a pre-Christmas dinner drink. Oh, I've forgotten the sherry. Liam, would you nip into the kitchen and fetch the two bottles that are on the table, please?"

"Yes, sure," I said, getting up from my seat and heading out of the sitting room towards the kitchen across the hallway. The door was almost closed. So I pushed it open and went in quickly heading towards the two bottles that I could see on the table. Then from the corner of my eye I saw two people come towards me from the garden room. I turned to see who it was and stopped dead in my tracks, hardly daring to believe what I saw in front of me. I just gawped in sheer amazement as I was standing face to face with my dad.

"Daaad," I managed to squeak out.

"Hello, Liam. Long time no see…" he replied as we moved closer and he just threw his arms around me. I just wrapped my own arms around him and felt my legs go to jelly and then it just started… uncontrollable sobs of total happiness. After what seemed like an age, but could only have been a few moments, I regained some control and started blurting

"How?.. When…? How long're you here for?"

"Hold on… one thing at a time. Calm down Liam." My dad's anything but steady voice got through to my racing brain.

I took my now tear streaked face out of his shoulder where I'd placed it as we hugged. and we looked at each other… a little at loss for words until the other guy came forward and said

"Hi, Liam, I'm Michael, your dad's boyfriend."

I somehow managed to stutter a 'Hi' as I took the offered hand and feebly shook it. Just then the door opened and Craig came in, sidled up to me and slipping his left arm around me, he said with utter certainty in his voice "And I'm Craig and Liam's my boyfriend," as he offered his right hand to our visitors.

Just then we were joined by a mêlée of people all welcoming my dad and his friend, then Paul who'd been busy at the cooker turned round and announced

"Right everyone… plenty of time to chat over the meal. Christmas dinner is ready. Let's all go through to the dining room and eat."

The End

Well that's it from the guys for now… I do have to thank my editor N. Fourbois for his sterling efforts with my version of the English Language.

My thanks also to Kiwi for his beta reading, NZ guidance and help, especially after the earthquakes.

Finally my thanks go to Timmy for publishing my efforts once again.

I also offer my apologies for taking so very long over the last few chapters. 2011 was not a good year for me, embroiled as I was in family matters and extended major building works right next door to me. I found it difficult to concentrate and almost impossible to write under such circumstances. Your forbearance was appreciated. I hope the wait has been worth it.

I have in mind a third episode of the saga… you'll have to let me know if you want it.

Paul Jamison, January 2012.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead