DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Not mine, no profit, just some day-dreaming I wrote down - everything belongs to the BBC and Sally Wainwright).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is gentle fluff - it has neither angst nor high drama but gently potters along and is almost certainly a little bit sugary and 'neat', but that's what this pairing triggers for me and I make no apology. To make things work, I've decided Kate went to Cambridge University (to compliment Caroline's Oxford University pedigree) and William is now there himself. Lawrence is about 14 and in his last year before embarking on the two year GCSE courses (UK school years 10 and 11).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Some Dances in Harrogate
"Hello?" called out Celia, stepping through the open French Windows into her daughter's large kitchen.
"Hi Mum," Caroline's voice echoed from the hallway, "kettle's on if you want a cup." Obediently, Celia came further into the kitchen and saw the kettle just starting to boil. Assuming the kettle was on for the obvious reason, she quickly found two mugs and tea bags.
"Do you compost?" asked Celia as Caroline entered the kitchen, inspecting the small stack of post that had just been delivered.
"Pardon?" Caroline was completely baffled by the question, resulting in her peering at her mother over her glasses, only to spot the tea bag resting on the teaspoon her mother was brandishing, "oh, yes there's a brown bin under the sink," she explained, softening her response with a smile as she put the post to one side, "thank you."
"Anything for me?"
"No " Caroline glanced briefly at the discarded mail, "I think we've got this one trained now I haven't had any of your post for a couple of weeks."
"Took two weeks too long mind," declared Celia, taking a sip of her hot tea before adding, "not that I mind you getting my post but it's not fair on you, having to remember to bring it round it's not like you've time to be Postman Pat!"
"I don't mind " began Caroline cautiously, unable to stop the small ball of worry form in her stomach when Celia started talking about her not having time the old Caroline would have immediately been on the defensive, hurling a sarcastic quip straight back at her mother: the new Caroline at least remembered to count to fifty first.
"And I'm very grateful that you do, I'm just being an old woman who still remembers the local postman asking after you when you were at Oxford because he remembered you confusing him with the tooth fairy " reminisced Celia, causing Caroline to blush she'd only been five when her first tooth had fallen out!
"Not that it's not lovely to see you "
"I brought you Alan's sheet "
"His what?" Confused, Caroline put her tea mug down and waited for her mother to find whatever it was she was looking for in her cardigan pockets.
"His diet sheet what the doctors have said he can't have now he's on these new tablets "
"Ah." Slightly more enlightened, Caroline accepted the piece of paper and began to read it, "I'd planned on a roast does he like chicken?" she asked eventually, not seeing anything on the list from the doctors that would stop him enjoying a proper roast chicken for Sunday lunch.
"Loves it gets a bit bored of lamb what with Gillian and the farm, and he moans something terrible about not being able to have crackling anymore."
"Okay then, roast chicken it is, and I'll do something for afters " Caroline mentally reviewed the contents of her fridge and freezer in light of what she'd just learnt about Alan's dietary constraints, " maybe a trifle? It feels a bit late to be doing a crumble, even if it is still frosty at night."
"Oh I know did you see those bedding plants Mrs Croxley put in three doors down on Tuesday?" asked Celia, causing Caroline to smile, "no protection at all and all lost to the frost by Thursday stubborn fool that she is, she's left them in, claiming they'll 'bounce back'! Bounce back my foot "
"Do you mind if it's a later lunch? I was thinking about 2 " continued Caroline, deciding it was wiser not to venture an opinion on Mrs Croxley's optimism or horticultural skill, especially when Celia's thumbs were far from green.
"No, that'd be lovely why so late? Is Lawrence doing sport?" Celia's awareness of her grandchildren's extra-curricular activities had improved rapidly in the last year but was still a little vague in places.
"Not on Sundays it's Kate " Caroline took a fortifying breath, determined not to pre-judge her mother's reaction on the mentioning of her girlfriend, " she won't be back from St Michael's until 12.30 at the earliest, more like 1 "
"St Michael's? I didn't know she was religious " was Celia's eventual comment, clearly choosing her words carefully.
"She isn't, but organs are usually in churches their organist is a parent and has broken his arm so she's playing a few services to help them out. Apparently it's a nice organ, certainly sounds lovely."
"You've been then?"
"To a service? God no but she's been going down there some evenings to practice I've gone down to listen a bit." Caroline hoped she wasn't blushing she was almost 47 years old but still clearly embarrassed discussing her girlfriend with her mother.
"Shall we come round for about 1.30 then?"
"Lovely. How's Alan doing, really?"
"He's fine, just misses his crackling and black pudding " And, with all awkward territory safely navigated, mother and daughter settled down to spend a few minutes on a Saturday morning just having a chat about anything, everything and nothing in particular
"That was smashing love, thank you," declared Alan, placing his knife and fork tidily on a now empty plate.
"You're very welcome there's seconds if you'd like some?" offered Caroline politely, knowing from the strict instructions she'd seen the day before on his 'diet sheet' that seconds of Sunday Roast were not part of Alan's future.
"I'll save myself for pudding, but thanks anyway."
"Can I have some more chicken Mum?" asked Lawrence, wondering if he'd be allowed extra.
"Depends will you still have room for trifle if you do?"
"Just a little bit?"
"Of trifle or chicken?" asked Kate, amused by his expression, which was definitely 'naughty schoolboy' as he tried to work out how to get out of her question.
"Come on then, I'll fight you for the last roast potato," teased Kate, getting to her feet before offering, "can I get anyone anything while I'm up?" only to receive a chorus of 'no thank yous' in reply.
"She's good with him," observed Alan as they watched her continue to gently tease Lawrence as they both helped themselves to small second helpings, but not before Kate made Lawrence do a quick bit of kitchen tidying.
"Mmm, she's wonderful," agreed Caroline automatically before trying to hide her blush behind her wine glass and adding, "and I'm biased."
"And so you should be love, but I'm sure she'd say the same thing "
"I hope so," agreed Caroline, looking nervously towards her mother whilst Celia was definitely more supportive than she had been initially, Caroline was still not relaxed in her company when Kate was the topic of conversation, not yet completely confident her mother's comments and reactions were always going to be supportive.
"Does she live here yet?"
"No Mum." As much as she didn't really want to have this particular conversation with her mother, Caroline's gut did untwist a fraction being hassled by your mother about whether or not your girlfriend had moved in yet was surely some sort of sign of acceptance?
"Have you asked her?" asked Alan gently, cutting in before Celia could ask something less delicately phrased.
"Not exactly I mean, yes, we've talked in vague terms about it, but it isn't the right time."
"Looks pretty right to me love," Celia's warmth surprised her daughter, who struggled not to gape like a goldfish at this unexpected ringing endorsement, "what's stopping you?" 'Please don't say me' was Celia's unspoken prayer.
"What about the toe-rag?"
"Celia " warned Alan, not sure her forthright opinions were entirely helpful, but Caroline was clearly unfazed and somewhat amused.
"Why couldn't you have told me what you really thought when I got engaged to him?" she asked, smiling.
"Would you have listened?"
"Well then. What's he done now?"
"Nothing, literally. He's refusing to finalise the divorce."
"Oh." Any further conversation, including Caroline explaining why it was so important, given how unpleasant and obstructive John had been, that the divorce was finalised before Kate moved, in was cut short by the ringing of the telephone.
"I'll get it," called Kate, oblivious to the suddenly serious turn of conversation at the table, only to discover that the portable telephone wasn't in the charging point, "or maybe the machine will," she shrugged, smiling at Caroline as they all heard Caroline's clear voice invite the caller to leave a message.
"Hello?" On hearing the voice, Caroline was out of her seat like a shot, not sure if she was diving for the telephone handset which she'd just spotted by the kettle, around the far side of the kitchen from Kate or the answerphone.
"Caroline? Where are you?" Lawrence, on hearing his father's voice, had also set off towards the phone, only unlike his mother he had to first work out where the telephone handset was.
"Answer the phone, I know you're there, playing house with your little black bitch " Anything further was not heard by the rest of them as Caroline managed to snatch the telephone up, stopping the answerphone message recording in the process, but not before Kate had clearly frozen and everyone else had realised he was drunk.
"That's quite enough of that thank you!" declared Caroline robustly, sounding every inch the Headmistress, with Lawrence immediately recognising the tone of voice his mother was using as the same one that brought classes of misbehaving teenagers to an obedient standstill.
"I will not discuss it," came the terse response as Caroline, resisting the urge to pace in her own kitchen, instead turned to look down the garden, not able to cope with looking at Kate whilst she couldn't do something to reassure her and unwilling to look at her son whilst she couldn't control her anger towards his father.
"You mean apart from because we only communicate through our solicitors?" It didn't surprise Alan that Caroline was resorting to sarcasm he was just impressed she was still trying to reason with the clearly inebriated man, having half expected her to hang up on him.
"You're drunk and abusive. You need help John, but not from me." Just because she wasn't going to pace didn't mean she couldn't tap her foot, although not wearing her stilettos did slightly lessen the satisfaction it usually brought her.
"Just sign the papers please John," she sighed wearily after a long pause during which she had to listen to all manner of abusive language, after which she did what she probably should have done in the first place, which was to hang up.
"Yes Lawrence?" If he was surprised that it was the teenager that broke the awkward silence by talking to him rather than any of his more immediate family (and Alan found himself including Kate in that definition) he tried not to show it.
"You still want to have a go at Mario Kart?"
"I'm not sure I'm supposed to be doing all those game things at my age " he began, knowing the doctor had been quite specific about what he could and couldn't do, and jumping up and down doing one of those computer games with the loud bangs like Raff did was firmly in the couldn't do list.
"It's not violent you drove to Gran's didn't you?" asked Lawrence, wondering why he wasn't getting the hint. Couldn't he and Celia see that they all needed to get out of the kitchen and give his Mum and Kate a minute?
"So you can have a go at Mario Kart then it's just driving a cartoon car round a cartoon race track even Gran's had a go."
"I was hopeless, kept crashing into things " volunteered Celia, realising what Lawrence was suggesting.
"Sounds like the day we met," teased Alan, getting to his feet and offering his hand to Celia, intent on pulling her through to the other room with him. As much as Caroline might need her mother after that phone call, it was clear to him that Kate and Caroline probably needed each other more, at least for a few minutes.
"Hello " said Caroline quietly once they had the kitchen to themselves making, for the moment at least, no move towards Kate.
"Hi " On hearing Caroline's voice, Kate turned around to look towards her girlfriend. "That was "
"Unpleasant?" suggested Caroline, taking the three steps necessary to put her within arms' length of Kate who was still standing rather stiffly.
"Unexpected he hasn't called for months, has he?"
"No at least " Caroline paused, before deciding she needed to tell Kate the whole truth, "he still occasionally tries my mobile, usually only when he's drunk though, but I don't answer it. That was the first time I've spoken to him in months."
"I'm sorry." Kate's fingers found a stray pen that was lying on the worktop and began to fiddle with it, prompting Caroline to reach out and grasp the nervous fingers with her own.
"Why? He's my idiot not-yet-ex-husband " pointed out Caroline, more concerned about making sure Kate stopped trying to assume any blame than anything else.
"But nothing I'm the one who should be apologising for you having to listen to that," As she spoke, Caroline rounded the corner of the kitchen island so she was standing directly in front of Kate, their fingers still entwined.
"What's Celia going to say?"
"No idea she'd only just finished calling him a toe-rag when he rang."
"You were talking about him?" Kate looked at Caroline in confusion she'd only been away from the table for a moment or two when the phone rang, and they hadn't been talking about John as she left the table.
"No, you " Caroline wrapped her other arm loosely around Kate's waist, holding her in a gentle embrace, " she wanted to know why you weren't living here yet."
"And you explained how you haven't asked me properly yet " teased Kate, mirroring Caroline's grasp, glad to be back onto a familiar topic of teasing.
"No, I explained how you haven't let me ask you properly yet " countered Caroline, pleased to see the sparkle start to return to her lover's eyes.
"You know I'll ask Lawrence, when you ask me " whispered Kate seriously, resting her forehead against Caroline's as she squeezed their joined hands.
"You know he'll say yes, when you ask him " confirmed Caroline equally seriously, feeling her heart soar as it always did every time Kate made some sort of reference to including her sons in their relationship.
"You know I'll say yes, when you ask me properly "
"I know you'll say yes " agreed Caroline softly as their lips met in a brief kiss that nevertheless lasted long enough to communicate everything that words couldn't no matter what happened with everyone else, they were together, through whatever life threw at them (and, if they were honest, life had plenty of choice when it came to things to throw)
"You're just trying to distract me from that last roast potato " joked Kate when they parted, trying to lighten the tone again ahead of being reunited with the others.
"Am I succeeding?"
"Only maybe? Am I losing my touch?"
"Not sure I think I need another sample to be sure " joked Kate, leaning in for another, slightly longer kiss, an 'experiment' Caroline was only too happy to participate in.
"Definitely better than the roast potato " agreed Kate, smirking as she pulled back reluctantly, conscious that they were still in the middle of a family Sunday Lunch and the impromptu Mario Kart contest probably wouldn't last very much longer.
"But now I'm thinking about dessert."
"Are you saying I'm not as good as chocolate trifle?" pouted Caroline, earning her a laugh rather than a kiss as she'd hoped.
"Far from it " corrected Kate, deliberately stepping back from her girlfriend so as to be out of temptation's reach, " but not while Celia and Lawrence are in the sitting room!"
"You're staying tonight?" Caroline's voice was suddenly husky as she studied Kate's face.
"I'm staying tonight " confirmed Kate, very glad she'd put even that small amount of distance between them when she realised Caroline was looking at her as if she was the chocolate trifle.
"Okay then " Feeling suddenly very warm, Caroline cleared her throat deliberately, finding Kate far more tempting than dessert, " I'll clear the table."
"I'll go get the others," said Kate, recognising they both probably needed a moment apart in order to get their emotions back under total control.
"I love you "
"I love you too you're magnificent," declared Kate as she stepped forward and pressed a quick kiss to Caroline's lips before stepping lightly around her and heading towards the sound of Mario Kart, calling out as she went " which track did you go for Lawrence?"
Heading towards the table to clear the plates, Caroline caught sight of the answerphone, with its new message light blinking ominously at her. Pausing, Caroline's first instinct was to reach out and delete the message, wanting the erasing of the recording to somehow help erase the memory but, hand halfway to the button, she paused before letting her hand drop. She'd keep the message and give it to her lawyer, would if necessary, give the whole sodding answerphone to the lawyer. He'd gone too far long ago but now, now it had gone on long enough: today he'd crossed the final line their marriage was long over and now, too, was their divorce. She'd waited long enough: he was signing those papers if she had to go to court to get it it was time to stop asking Kate if she was staying the night and start asking Kate if she wanted to move in, after all, it was clear everyone was ready for them to move in together, including her mother
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