Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 28

After everything dies down and most of the circus of relatives has gone Larissa Snowe and I are sitting outside the hospital on a wall smoking cigarettes reflecting on what has been a weird draining kind of day.

"That was a weird day," Larissa says.
"Wasn't it."
"But I thought you did pretty well as stand in guy and bonus points for people management."
"Really? Well I always wanted to be stand in guy, but I was still expecting Paul to walk in the door. I was convinced he work come back. I just thought he had to."
"Absolutely, I feel like I've lost my relationship road map. I mean if it can't work for Jack and Jacqueline, or Alison and Paul, as I like to call them, what hope for the rest of us?"
"You don't really think that do you?"
I shrug, "Oh, I guess not, but that is my official response should anyone ask me."
"Off the record?"
"I thought there wasn't any off the record? Isn't your favourite quote something about Joan Didion? One last thing to remember, journalists are always selling someone out?"
"You remembered."
"I'm memory girl, you know that."
"Well you're right, Didion did say 'one last thing to remember, journalists are always selling someone out, but...well, you can't sell everyone out."
"No, besides it takes too long."
"Are you trying to tell me there, that you wouldn't sell me out?"
"Sort of."
"You really are just an old romantic."
"Yeah, well cynicism will only get you so far, you know, so I heard."
"You heard right, anyway, unofficially?"
"Unofficially, I think it all comes down to the two people sitting opposite each other and what they're telling each other."
"What do you mean?"
"Well it just appears that maybe like a lot of people Alison and Paul just started assuming things about each other."
"That's rather good – the bit about the assumptions. So are you advocating absolute honesty?"
I smile, "That would be totally insane."
"That's an understatement."
"No, not totally honesty, just talking and making sure that the person sitting opposite you knows what's on your mind."
"You know what I really find having trouble believing?"
"Hit me with it Lissa."
"Well it's pretty straight forward, but Paul must have, and I mean absolutely must have known that Alison was approaching her cut off point."

It isn't a phrase I've ever heard Alison mention. Larissa Snowe on the other hand is always mentioning it when talking about other people or in relationship to friends at work. Lately I think I've heard it a lot. The cut off point is suddenly something of an issue. It started with Elspeth, one of Larissa Snowe's friends. A couple months back when Larissa Snowe called me with some ("shocking") news. Her friend Elspeth she told me was pregnant, which was shocking chiefly because at the time, or last I'd heard, Elspeth didn't have a boyfriend.

"But didn't she dump Tom like months ago?"
"She did, but they got back together about six weeks ago maybe less."
"You've been holding out on me?"
"I didn't think it would last. So technically I was just delaying."

Previously my last Elspeth update had been that she had dumped Tom (her musician boyfriend) and thrown him out because he was lousy and inattentive (forget birthdays) and generally no good (he cheated) not to mention the fact that he owed Elspeth thousands of pounds almost entirely as the result of a major cocaine habit.

"This is the same guy that when she threw him out she went to the trouble of changing the locks on her house?"
"Same guy."
"And now she's pregnant?"
"And now she's pregnant."
"That's odd he didn't really strike me as father material."
"Father material? Are you claiming expertise?"
"No not an expert on father material, I had this idea that fathers would generally teach their kids to play cricket and football and build model WWII fighter planes from plastic Airfix kits rather than educate their kids on class A drugs."
"Did your dad do that with you Gordon?"
"Now that you mention it…but I'm serious, that's my game plan."
"That's sweet, but I didn't think you had a game plan?"
"Well now that you mention it…but anyway, aren't Tom's major talent cutting and slicing white lines and strumming a few bars?"
"Elspeth used to say that he could play the piano rather beautifully. He used to play to her when they first went out. Later he would cut lines of cocaine on top. She used to think it was sexy."
"Classy, but corny, I can see that."
"He hocked it of course. He hocked everything."
"Lucky kid so why so rash on Elspeth's part? She always struck me as a rather sensible girl, which is why you two get on so well together."
"Oh you're charming aren't you? Sensible?"
"I mean that in a good way."
"As opposed to?"
"A bad way?" I offer.
"I'm sure Elspeth will be as thrilled as I am to hear you say that," Larissa Snowe said laughing.
"Well I'm going to reappraise her. She might lose her sensible girl rating. I might have to downgrade her to really rather rash girl. So what happened?"
"Elspeth reached her cut off point that's what happened."

I'm not sure if that was the first time I'd heard about the cut off point, but I think it was probably the first time that I realised that it was something of a trend. Trend is the wrong word. I think it's a generational and demographic consequence and a product of the lives and lifestyles of my contemporaries. It's something else that seems to coincide with exiting that key 18-34 year old age group. In Elspeth's case, she was almost 35, which seems for a lot of women to be their personal 'cut off point'. I guessed at the time that she cut with just a passing ("well I supposed I could do worse than Tom") thought.

"Her cut off point?"
"Elspeth decided ages ago that her cut off point was 35. She said she didn't care if she had found the right man. She always said she wanted to be pregnant by then."
"So Tom gets a call back as Elspeth is running out of time?"
"Basically, yeah. Tom gets a call back, you know how it is Gordon you can't always cast the right guy. It's a shame as he probably thinks she wants him for his music or even god forbid his personality."
"So much for true romance then."
"Welcome to true biology."
"I have to tell you that's pretty damn good - true biology, do you think you'd be able to find it in Detroit?"
"You could always look. True biology, do you think it'll catch on?"
"Oh I think it just might. True biology, a story about genes."
"Men should be told the truth."
"The truth, which one are you interested in?"
"The one about cut-off points."
"Well, you said yourself it's about knowing what's on your partner's mind. Anyway Gordie, so what's on your mind?"

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 27

Five months later

It's like a conference and I swear that just about anyone who is anyone is here. Somehow, and please don't ask me as I really don't know, I seem to have been elected conference organiser/chairman/the guy everyone shakes hands with and slaps on the back, which is odd as that is just not me. I'm not the organiser guy on any level not at parties or gatherings and certainly on occasions like this. I’m a run of the mill mingler or wall leaner type guy at best with very few organisational skills. I need to find out who is in charge of administration – there's definitely been an error.

Alison's mother and her father are both here, as you might expect, but her older sister, an aunt and at least one surly teenage cousin are also here. The cousin is definitely here under duress. He’s not looking happy, just staring blankly into his Gameboy. Wait a minute, what am I talking about, that’s just a natural teenage state. Maybe I should give him a pep talk. A pep talk, will you listen to me? I’m not pep talk guy this whole situation is going to my head.

Most bizarre of all, and by a long shot, is my mother. I mean what’s that about? When she strolled in she told me that Alison's mother had given her a lift as if that explained everything in a perfectly satisfactory manner. Nobody said this was a spectator sport.

First of all I thought that it couldn't actually 'be' my mother, but that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I tried to convince myself that as this figure (looking like my mother) approached it was in fact some doppelganger. I mean they say everyone has one. And to me that made more sense than my mother turning up as really what on earth would she be doing here? Unless it was in fact, as earlier postulated, a little known spectator sport.

"Mother what are you doing here?"
"Ruth gave me a lift."
"Alison's mother, Gordon, surely you remember."
"Of course I do, I know what Alison's mother is called. But what are you doing here?"
"What a silly question, it’s a big day, everyone's here."
"It's a bid day? What kind of answer is that?"
"A big day, I thought I should be here."

Sara and Johnny are here as well although Johnny has no idea why.

"Moral support."
"Moral support?"
"I know, it struck me as weird as well."
"Well why did you come?"
"I don’t know, Sara wanted to come."
"I don't understand, it's like it’s a spectator sport."
"I know, pretty weird when really no one is going to do any spectating."
"Apart from you."
"Yeah, how did that happen?"
"You’re the man of the moment dude."
"I know, but how did that happen. I'm not man of the moment guy."
"You know, you don't strike me as man of the moment guy either, but you are Alison's best friend."
"I know, but Paul should be here."
"Or maybe not."
"Yeah, maybe not, I've thought about calling him and trying to track him down."
"Too late for that Gordo. This is your hour."
"But I don't want an hour, I've never wanted one. When I saw the careers officer at school, I told him that. No hours. This is definitely a mistake."
"Well maybe this will prove a pivotal moment for you."
"Pivotal schmivotal."
"That's the spirit, besides, Sara seems to think its a real laugh, you that is."
"You know, I think I was definitely adopted, there is no way we can be related."
"She thinks you'll faint."
"Why are you telling me this."
"You won't faint."
"Are you sure? I think there'll be blood."
"True, well try not to be faint. It'll be embarrassing. People will talk and your sister will never let you forget it."
"Oh boy."

Larissa Snowe is here as well, but that's understandable she had a pivotal role in driving Alison here with me in the passenger seat.

No one ever said it would be this big, that there would be so many people, I've never even seen it packed like this even on TV. Don't people have lives – their own lives that is, as opposed to other people's lives.

But you know what worries me most? It's Alison's mother. She keeps talking to me like I'm a member of the family and giving the impression that I had something to do with all of this. I think I should come out and state the obvious and tell Alison's mother "You know I had nothing to do with this right not a thing, nothing?", but I don't. She also seems to have given the aging aunt the wrong idea. Every time I see her she keeps congratulating me.

"Well done young man."
"But I didn't do anything."
"Of course not."
"No, I really didn't."
"You young people."

She just smiles at me and congratulations. This is of course very weird, so I just smile and try to be non-committal, but I think instead of being vague I might have instead have given her the impression that it was all a piece of cake, which is of course entirely wrong as there was definitely no cake involved.

I’m not a hospital guy. I keep looking around hoping to catch someone’s eye half expecting them to give me the nod or something and admit that there’s been a mistake, but it doesn’t happen instead Alison just squeezes my hand harder and I try to keep smiling, which to be honest despite all of my bluster I’m able to do with ease as I’m feeling pretty giddy and I really can’t fight it. That’s something else I never saw myself as, Mr Giddy.

Alison has a grip of iron. It feels like every muscle in her body, bar the other ones that she kind of needs right now, is being channelled through her hand, but that’s okay. Did I forget to mention that I’m in the delivery room and everything is going on around me as all the expectant friends gather? Expectant friends? Is that even a phrase?

I’m in the delivery room holding Alison’s hand. This is it, Alison is having a baby and there isn’t any going back and there isn’t any Paul. There’s just the two of us and I’m not totally sure what I’m doing here. Did I mention that? I kept thinking Paul would come back, but then time started to get really short. First we had three months to go and then there were two months and just one and suddenly we are talking weeks and still no Paul. We were down to days and still no Paul. Hours and still no Paul, minutes and still no Paul, and the truth is there is just no Paul. I mean he isn’t going to come back.

I then started to obsess about Alison giving birth. I wasn’t manic or anything, but I just worried and I wondered if she wanted someone there and what it would be like on her own. As I guess what we’ve all tried to do is make damn sure that if one thing and one thing only is true Alison is not on her own and I don’t know if it worked, but we tried.

This could be taking that a little too far, but in the end I just had to ask her. I mean I’d been crashing at Alison’s a bit just helping out, just sitting around again like we used to do and keeping her company. It wasn’t just me there were lots of friends around, but I just hadn’t bargained for being around to the extent that I am now as I watch baby’s head eased slowly out of her mother. Her mother? Weird. My friend Alison is a mother and I am holding her hand.

It was Alison’s mother who said it first. I think it was part of her general campaign to appropriate me for the all-purpose male role in the forth-coming birth of her grand child.

"I suppose you’ll want to be there?"
"Be there?"
"Yes of course, on the day."
"Oh yes, of course, I'll be there offering all the support that I can."
"That's very good to hear, I think someone should be and you Gordon are the ideal person," Alison’s mother said.
"That's very nice of you to say so."
"Oh, I'm sure Alison would say it herself."

The ideal person? What can I say I’m only a guy and I always wanted to be an ideal person.

"I'm sure she would."
"Well you’re one of Alison’s closest friends, if not closest," Alison’s mother said.
"True," I said grinning.
"It’ll be an experience for both of you."
"Oh definitely."
"I'm sure she would love to have someone there on hand as it were, a friendly face."
"I'll be there."
"Yes with Paul gone, I'm not sure who else would have volunteered to go into the delivery room."
"The delivery room?"
"Yes of course."
"You mean as in...the delivery room?"
"Yes, when Alison gives birth. That's where you'll be."
"Right, you see, the thing is..."
"The thing is?"
"Well what I mean to say is that when you said 'be there', I was thinking...thinking for her, as a friend, you know, near-by?"

Alison's mother laughed, phew, at least she knew where I was coming from. What a relief.

"Oh, I'll say you'll be nearby. There won't be anyone nearer not in the delivery room, what a view."
"View, I guess there will be that."

Oh boy. I was certain that Alison wouldn’t want me there and so I checked, but I think I made a mistake in the phrasing of my question. I’d meant to say: "

You don’t really want anyone there with you, do you? You know when, you know, its time..."

But what I actually said was this instead.

"Do you want someone there, you know when it’s time?"
"Oh Gordon, that would be lovely, thanks for offering."
"Oh yes, what a great suggestion, I thought I'd be there on my own."

It brought a big smile to Alison’s face when I said it and there really wasn't any going back after that.

"Oh you really are a friend aren’t you? Is this my reward for doing your maths homework for years on end?”
"Well Ali you know I’ve always said I never quite found away to repay you."
"Well don’t worry, after this I think we'll be even."

I asked the nurse before I went in if she had any advice or if there was anything in particular I needed to do when I was inside. The nurse just smiled like she had done several thousands times before.

"Just keep smiling and try not to faint, mothers seem to find it distressing when their husbands pass out on them.”

I was going to correct her, going to set her straight, but then I just left it, I mean the tip still applies. So I continue to smile and squeeze Alison’s hand back as she squeezes mine.

The door to the delivery room is constantly swinging backwards and forwards and I glance over my shoulder and I’m not entirely sure why as I’m not going anywhere now.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 26

The two of us set off out of the flat, down the street, and head towards the park. We walk across the junction and head down the street and across the Zebra crossing and we head up the tree-lined drive to the boating lake near the running track, which is where I know Alison wants to be. She loves the water and every time we've ambled around the park we always go by the route that takes us around the lake. Twice around the lake.

We come to a halt by the metals bars around the lake and we watch a short old Mediterranean man, a Greek or an Italian maybe, and he is taking out bread from his crumpled and well-used bag and feeding the ducks on the lake. The old man smiles and offers some dry white bread to Alison who smiles and gratefully takes it.

"I'll be like that. I'm sure of it. I'll feed the ducks on Saturday mornings, but maybe I won't be so tanned. I mean who knows," I say.
"No, you don't strike me like the tanned type what with your delicate pale white looks," she says laughing.
"Really? That doesn't sound so good. I'll be one of those translucent old people. Also known as TOPs."
"Old people aren't translucent, Gordie."
"Maybe I mean transparent?"
"No, I really don't think you do."

As we are looking across the old man offers us a smile and a gentle nod, but says nothing. Instead he turns with his hands folded behind his back and he walks off following the fence around the edge of the water.

After the old man has gone Alison tells me that the two of us are in the same boat now, which prompts me to take a few running jumping steps screaming as I go.

"What on earth are you doing?"
"I've just found out I'm pregnant and to be honest, that's pretty distressing. I thought screaming might help."
"Oh, you're very funny."
"You know, people do say that," I say.
"No they don't."
"Okay, but they do say, my sarcasm can be withering."
"Yes, but that isn't a good thing."
"Oh come on, you can't say that now. I built my whole thing around it."
"Oh too bad, anyway, I mean Susan."
"Susan? Now I'm confused. Susan's pregnant already? Adam is a fast worker, but that would be..."
"No you fool, I mean that we are both on our own."
"Oh, see what you mean, but I think I liked it more when you said she was pregnant."
"Oh, and why's that?"
"Oh, I don't know, the finality of it."
"Oh what you mean that if she was up the duff, like moi, you wouldn't have to do anything about it?"
"Something like that."
"Well she's not, so who knows."
"Anyway, less about me, lets talk about you and..."
"Me and my work fling? My seedy and reckless work fling. Okay. What do you want to know?"
"Paul will be back right? I mean he is absolutely crazy about you."
"I don't think so. I think I broke his heart. Anyway, you seem to be under the impression that I want him back."
"And you don't?"
"No," she says shaking her head.
"Wow, you're just huge with the news today."
"Wow indeed, you're so funny."
"I know, but this is an important day. I never knew we were old enough to have 'affairs', previously it was just screwing around, but you're married and have had affair with...well full blow results."
"Full blown? Oh thanks."
"Sorry, with serious results. Its like we moved to a new level. Affairs, its big."
"We've moved?"
"Definitely, I think we're together in this."
"Possibly, so come on what about affair guy?"
"Oh I don't really want him either."
"You're one picky girl, you know that right?"
"I've always been picky."
"True, but now you don't want the husband, who technically you should want what with the marriage, and you don't want the affair guy who you should want as you don't want the husband...and, oh I'm confused here. So why don't you want him."
"I don' t know, he was, what was he? He was...oh I don't know he was just there, and I wanted someone who was there."
"That's' the trouble with people isn't it? They're either there or they're not."
"Oh that's very profound Gordie, in your case they happen to be elsewhere."
"Yeah, in my case that's probably true. You know, I have to tell you Ali, the whole seedy work thing? I never saw that coming."
"It wasn't exactly planned."
"Your seedy work girl. Nice."
"Oh thanks, anyway, I seem to remember you having one or two work things."
"True, but I was young, not married and errr stupid."
"True, but at least you're still stupid."
"There will always be that. So what did you want with affair guy?"
"Oh I think I just wanted a way out and then I found one and...I don't know, heavens knows, I'm miserably now."
"The Smiths are banned, really they should be. Besides you weren't looking for a way out."
"I wasn't? I thought I was."
"No, you were looking for an easy way out."
"Harsh, but possibly true."
"I find it really hard to grasp. I mean you two, Alison and Paul, were rocks, rocks talked about you. You were big in the rock world."
"A rock? Oh come on."
"Seriously, you're meant to be unassailable that's your job."

Alison at looks back at me for a moment and she looks a little put off.

"What do you mean unassailable?"

I start to explain to her that everyone has a friend who is unassailable. The needle in the eye of the storm the people who don't start going to pieces when all around them do.

"You're the rock steady one," I tell her, "keeping up a tradition of giving out wise and good advice to all your friends."

Alison shakes her head.

"That's how you see me?" she asks.
"Now that is funny."
"It isn't meant to be. I just always thought that you and Paul were beyond those kinds of jitters, which hit everyone else."
"I'm not unassailable though," Alison starts again.
"What do you mean?"

I ask her and as I do Alison turns her lip up as if she were considering telling something else, but is undecided.

"I'm just not I'm...." she shrugs, stops.
"Maybe you shouldn't tell me."
"Why because I'm unassailable?"
"And who am I meant to turn to?"
"To you close friends," I say and I'm smiling as I do.
"Which would be you then, wouldn't it?"
"Is there anyone closer? There should be what with me being kind of foolish and short on good advice."
"And you say I'm funny,"
"Maybe we lost our unassailable powers when we got married and tried to grow up. I think it's about then that you start to stop playing and take it seriously. Well one of us did at least," she says.

I'm about to speak and I don't know what I am going to say and instead I end up silently dropping my jaw.

"It's okay," Alison says, "I don't know what to say either."

Alison turns to lean on the thick black railings and as she does she hands me the slice of dry white bread that the old man had given to her.

"Come on," she says, "feed the ducks for me."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 25

I knew this would happen. When I get back from Larissa Snowe's in the morning I get this eerie glimpse of the future. Not my future, but the future. Johnny and my sister are sitting together on the couch. On my couch. Sara is in his dressing gown and he in shorts and a T-shirt. It's like some huge public display.

"Hey," Johnny says as I walk in.

My sister looks up at me and smiles in an amused fashion. My sister is constantly amused and really I don't think I have met anyone else in the world who is quite as amused as she is.

"Hey," I say.
"You've just missed the phone."
"Really who was it?"
"Alison, she's coming round."
"That's weird, it's Saturday morning."
"What people don't visit you on Saturday mornings?" Sara says.
"Errr, no."
"Talking of Saturday mornings bit early for you, isn't? What with it being Saturday and you just coming in as you are?"
"Johnny, we agreed no details about my private life when my sister is around? Remember?"
"Gordon, it's okay," my sister starts, "I know you have no luck with women."
"You've been giving her the low down haven't you?"
Johnny laughs, "So what's the mystery. You didn't score did you?"
"No, I was..."

And I pause as I'm thinking how weird is this? I have been out for the night and slept with, but you know, not actually with, an ex girlfriend.

"So? You're making it sound interesting, come on?"
"I swear it's not interesting. Larissa Snowe and I drank cocktails and..."
"Yeah, and you could hardly walk so you slept on her couch, right?"
"What is it about you two and drinking?"
"I don't know, we just have a lot of fun with alcohol."
"We like it although I worry that we get a bit silly."
"I think silly is rather good," Sara says.

My sister must be mellowing or being secretly arch as that is unlike her. She's a management consultant and she has an MBA and I'm sure silly is just not an MBA-approved word. Amused, but not silly.

"Yeah well it gets my vote."
"Just how silly did you get?" Johnny asks.
"Oh cocktails and red wine, kind of fell asleep on the floor silly."
"Well as long as that's all you got up to."
"Sara's right I have absolutely no luck. I like to stick to dating women I have already been out with and who have no plans to go out with me ever again."
"That, might not be dating in the strictest sense, then," Sara says.
"True, I seem to be entering a new category of platonic dating. Anyway, what did Alison say?"
"Didn't say, maybe more commiserations on the Susan front."
"Commiserations on the Susan front? On a Saturday morning?"
"Yeah, weird, she'll be here any minute anyway."
"You know Alison used to help me with my advanced maths?" Sara says thinking out loud.

I nod do time travel and cast back. Alison was really good at everything, not just maths. My thoughts snap back and I can't help myself feeling just a little bit uneasy.

I start to make a pot of coffee, but don't get to finish before the buzzer goes and Johnny calls out.

"Gord mate?"
"We're not dressed. You'll have to go."
"We're not dressed? Maybe you could dress individually."

Downstairs I find Alison standing on the doorsteps, with red cheeks and wearing a long dark coat and big white scarf.

"Surprise," she says.
"I'll say, we were just remarking that really people don't visit much on Saturdays."
"I know, and I thought I would come over. We haven't spoken since I suggested you go speed dating, and I hear that didn't turn out so well?"
"You could say that, come on in."

We head back up stairs and Alison takes a seat, while I finish with the coffee in the kitchen and bring out the cafeteria and four cups.

"Johnny's been telling me, you had a pushing contest?"
"Yeah, pretty grown up, I know. And please Alison I know you told me so many times, and you were right. Everyone was right, but hey what can I say?"
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"Do? Errr, well there's really not a lot to do about it. I mean I've tried pushing and to be honest that didn't work so well and I think Susan is really a little pissed off."
"She is, I think you may have completely missed the boat on that one," Alison says.
"Well I never did like the water much, maybe she'll dump him.
"Maybe," says Alison.
"Anyway, we're all intrigued about an early morning Saturday visit, nice as it is to see you."
"Ali, they're intrigued, I'm not," Sara says, "although it's always lovely to see you, where's Paul, haven't seen him for ages."

Alison doesn't immediately reply and she has one of those looks on her face that are shipped from the factory with instructions saying "use this when delivering bad weighty news".

"Well it's funny you should say that, he's left."

I hear Alison perfectly well when she says this, but I don't react as I am happily pouring coffee. Besides my brain tells me that Alison cannot possibly mean what she said literally as that would not make any sense what so ever. My brain has just edited the information and come up with the conclusion that what Alison is saying is that Paul is very left, which is true. He is still pretty leftwing, so in that context it all makes perfect sense as Paul wouldn't leave Alison as she is best - best job, best looking, best house, best husband, like I said best.

"When you say left Ali, you mean..." Sara says waving her arm in front of her obviously not quite getting it either.
"I mean as in gone."

Still there are no pennies dropping.

"What you mean gone away, work wise?" Johnny asks.

Alison smiles as if she finds us all vaguely comical and really I can see why she might.

"No, I mean gone as in walked out of the door and is not coming back."

Silence. The audience is stunned and really doesn't know where to look or what to say.

"Surely, it's just a falling out. He'll be back. I mean you're married Alison..." I say.

For some reason, this makes Alison laugh, which seems entirely the incorrect response.

"No not just a falling out. A falling apart, I'm afraid. It's one that's been a long time in the making."

"He was always very keen," Sara says.
"You're right, always keen. What is it with all that keenness?"
"Oh, I'm sure I don't know. I think it's something in their genes."
"I shouldn't have married Paul, and now this has all happened at the worst possible time, things are considerably bigger now."
"Bigger?" Sara says.
Alison nods, oh yes, she's saying.
"How much bigger are we talking about exactly?"

At this point Alison draws her arms about her.

"Oh, I think a little over four months is how much bigger we are talking about."

Sara gets up from the couch and she goes over to Alison who stands and the two women hug each other as Johnny and I look on.

"Oh dear," Sara says, "you're pregnant."
"It's actually worse than that," Alison says.
"OMG, you don't mean..."
"Afraid so, it isn't Paul's."

Blimey, now no one knows what to say, we're all stunned and I have that feeling that everyone wants to leave the room, but there really isn't anywhere to go. The silence lingers and people seem to be taking their time to drink their coffee and generally rearrange themselves.

"Come on," says Alison, "I want to go for a walk."
"She's talking to you idiot," Sara says.
"Yeah, I got that thanks dork."
"Oh play nicely you two will you? I'm having something of a rough husbandless weekend."

This silences Sara and I and brings an end to our brief outbreak of squabbling. Sara leans into Johnny, putting her head on his shoulder, with a dreamy smile on her face.

"Okay, mum," Sara says and everybody laughs.
"Oh stop that, I'm going to start feeling 12 years old again about any second now. Come on, let's go," she says.