فصل 12

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فصل 12

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER TWELVE

The Two Bs (Barry and Brad)

Barry looks at me. My face is red again. ‘A Christmas tree,’ he says thoughtfully, ‘that’s exciting. Of course we can put it in my car.’ And he opens the car door for us without asking anything at all about ‘Uncle Brad’.

Still, somehow it’s a happy thing to do, buying the tree. Christopher’s so excited that we end up feeling excited too, and there’s Christmas music playing in the shop and coloured lights and decorations. As well as the Christmas tree, we buy a very large cake and a bottle of wine. I’m not sure I’ll have any of the wine because I’m so tired. I already feel a bit drunk and unsteady on my feet. But I definitely want some of the cake. Mmm… delicious.

I only start worrying about Barry and Brad meeting each other when we’re driving back towards the house. Still, hopefully Brad will still be asleep.

I open the front door very very quietly.

‘Uncle Brad!’ shouts Christopher at the top of his voice. ‘Uncle Brad, come and look at the Christmas tree!’

‘Christopher!’ I whisper loudly. ‘Be quiet! Shh!’ I can feel Barry looking at me. ‘Brad… that is… your Uncle Brad Was awake all night. He’s very tired.’

‘But it’s daytime now,’ says Christopher, ‘and I want him to see the tree!’

Barry’s still looking at me. ‘You seem very tired yourself, Alex,’ he says. ‘Very tired.’ Suddenly I realise what he’s thinking. He thinks Brad and I are both tired because we were awake all night making love to each other!

‘I was writing,’ I tell him quickly, ‘the story I was telling you about. I wrote it down. I didn’t finish until a few hours

Barry smiles. ‘That’s great,’ he says. ‘I’d love to read it later. Now, Christopher, where do you want this tree?’

As I stand and watch the two of them set the tree up in the big entrance hall I start to yawn. Barry looks at me. ‘Why don’t you have a sleep?’ he says. ‘We’ll be all right for an hour or so, won’t we, Christopher?’

‘Of course,’ says his new young friend, and I smile gratefully.

‘OK, I think I will.’ Upstairs lying on my bed, I start to wonder why I wanted to make it clear to Barry that nothing had happened between me and Brad, but before I can come up with an answer, I’ve fallen asleep.

I’m asleep for ages. When I finally wake it’s almost lunchtime. Oh dear. I’d better find out how Barry and Christopher are getting on. I’m about halfway down the stairs when I hear a woman laughing. It seems to be coming from the kitchen. I freeze on the middle step, listening.

Surely it isn’t Tania? The unknown woman laughs again. No, I doubt if Tania ever laughs like that, except perhaps at her own jokes. Then I hear Barry laughing too. Whoever the unknown visitor is, she’s certainly got a sense of humour. Perhaps it’s Christopher’s mother come to collect him. Perhaps she’s managed to make it up with her husband, so now she’s feeling happy.

I hurry on down the stairs, and then suddenly I see the tree and stop again, gasping with delight. It looks beautiful, with pretty lights, proper decorations and even a star on top!

‘Isn’t it great?’ says Christopher, coming out of the sitting-room, and seeing me. ‘Barry had all the decorations in his car! He was going to put them on his tree at home, but he said I could have them instead!’

I stand there looking at the tree, and for some reason I feel like crying. For the first time it really does seem as if it’s almost Christmas. ‘It’s lovely.’

‘And your friend’s here!’ Christopher announces. ‘Come and see!’

I follow him into the kitchen, and there, sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Barry, is Diana. ‘Di!’

‘Hi, Alex!’ She smiles at me. ‘I was doing a delivery this way, so I thought I’d pop in for a visit. I’m owed some time off anyway. Barry tells me you’ve written your story. That’s fantastic! Well done!’

‘Well,’ I say, ‘it still needs some work.’

‘Of course, but the important thing is you’ve made a start.’

Barry pours me a coffee and I sit down with them at the table. I feel a little confused, to be honest. I mean, for Barry and Di to be laughing together like that, I suppose Di must like Barry. I’m not sure they’ve been alone together before. They’ve met, of course, but always as part of a group, and Barry can be a bit shy in a large group.

‘And was I right?’ she asks me. ‘Do you feel good now?’

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Exhausted, but good.’

Barry’s smiling at me, and I remember the Christmas tree. ‘Thanks for being so nice to Christopher. The tree looks really -‘

But I don’t manage to finish my sentence, because suddenly somebody starts shouting out in the hall. When we leave our coffee and run out to see what’s wrong, we find Brad at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the Christmas tree.

‘What the hell’s that thing doing here?’

We all stand there looking at him, but before we can answer, a car pulls up outside. ‘Bloody hell!’ swears Brad. ‘What now?’ And he goes to open the door.

‘Goodness me!’ says a very familiar voice. ‘You must be Brad! May I say what a wonderful place your house is in. That view is beautiful. And what a delightful Christmas tree!’ My mother walks, uninvited, into the hall as her taxi drives off. ‘You see, Alex,’ she says, ‘unlike you, some people are as enthusiastic about Christmas as I am.’

Brad watches as Mum takes off her green coat. She’s wearing her short yellow dress. He turns to me, ‘Alex,’ he asks, ‘who is this person?’

I open my mouth to reply, but Mum gets in first. She steps forward to shake his hand, and as she does so, we all notice her shoes at the same time. The left shoe is green, and the right shoe is yellow.

‘How silly of me,’ she says. ‘I’m Alex’s mother, Willow.’

Christopher breaks the silence that follows this announcement. ‘Is that your earth name?’ he asks. ‘Mine’s Forest!’

I don’t think I’ll ever really understand how it happens, but somehow, within half an hour, Mum has found Brad some pills for his headache and successfully persuaded him we should have a ‘before Christmas’ party.

‘Your mother’s amazing,’ Barry tells me, as Christopher leads him upstairs to show him something in his bedroom. ‘Really amazing.’I try to smile, but I can’t quite manage it. Mum’s got Brad blowing up balloons in the sitting-room, and I can hear her telling him all about me as a little girl. Incredibly embarrassing things about me as a little girl. Brad seems really interested. He’s staring at my mother with complete attention. Either that or his face has frozen with shock. I can’t quite be sure.

‘Are you OK, Alex?’ Diana asks as she passes on her way to the kitchen.

‘No,’ I say, ‘I’m having a bad dream. A very bad dream.’

She laughs. ‘It’s not so bad,’ she says. ‘Come and help me sort out some party food.’

I’m not sure how she does it, but somehow Diana manages to create a tray of delicious snacks. Not only that, but she also makes me feel as if I am a fairly useful helper, and nothing gets burnt.

When we take the food into the sitting-room, Brad is impressed.

‘Mmm,’ he says to Di, helping himself from the tray, ‘I’m really hungry. You’re a very clever woman.’ And he stands there eating and staring at Di. He only notices I’m there at all when I drop the biscuit I’m eating on the floor.

‘Why is it you never learnt to cook like that yourself, Alex?’ he says. ‘Is it because you were too busy pushing toys up your nose?’ Still laughing, he goes over to Di to get another snack. I sit down miserably in one of the armchairs. ‘Look,’ I hear Brad saying to Di, ‘I’m sorry I reacted like that about the Christmas tree. I wouldn’t want you to get the idea I was mean. That’s not what I’d like you to think of me at all!’

Mum’s noticed the way Brad’s standing close to Di, looking into her eyes. Or at least, the way he’s trying to look into Di’s eyes, because Di’s just carrying on putting the snacks onto plates from the tray as if she doesn’t know he’s there.

‘I thought Brad was going to be your boyfriend,’ Mum says to me while the others aren’t listening. ‘Why’s he looking at Diana like that?’

‘Perhaps,’ I say tiredly, ‘he isn’t attracted to people who used to push their toys up their nose.’

‘But, darling,’ she objects, ‘that was sweet! Even the man at the hospital thought so! I was just trying to give Brad a complete picture of you.’

‘Hmm,’ I say. ‘Actually, I don’t think your embarrassing stories about my childhood have got anything to do with it. I think he just looks at all women like that - as if he wants to eat them.’

You see, suddenly I know it’s true. I thought that way he had of staring into my eyes was special to me. But now he’s doing just the same thing to Di. He was even doing it to my mother! It’s just something he does automatically whenever he looks at a woman. I expect he even looks at June Weatherby like that!

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