‘That is the Miller file, Mister Broderick,’ Angus said pointedly.
‘Not the Miller file! The Milton file! I asked for the Milton file, now get it. You did bring it, didn’t you?’
Mister Broderick looked keenly at Angus as if he suspected him of purposely thwarting his plans.
‘Of course, Mister Broderick. I’ll get it immediately.’ Angus hurried from the study, through the white French doors, past the pool and to the guest house where he was staying.
I’m just a glorified secretary, he fumed silently,
He rummaged in the box of files he had brought with him from the city and pulled the Milton file from its grasp.
This is supposed to be a break, but Broderick works even harder at his holiday house than he does in the city!
Striding back to the house, Angus looked around at the sprawling grounds. Some holiday house, he thought,Although Angus had lived in America for almost a year, he had not quite become used to the ostentatious display of wealth.
As he walked through the house, he passed Shane Broderick, the son and heir.
‘Good morning,’ Angus said automatically.
Shane, looking him up and down, said ‘hi’ with a complete and apparent lack of interest.
‘Here’s the file, Mister Broderick,’ Angus said, placing it on the huge desk that Broderick favoured. He liked imposing furniture and Angus guessed it somehow compensated for his lack of height.
Broderick grunted and started pawing through it as the side door opened and Mrs Broderick entered.
‘Good morning, darling,’ she said, planting a kiss on her husband’s bald head
He grunted a reply and she smiled at Angus. ‘Good morning, Angus. Was the guest house satisfactory?’
Satisfactory? It was bigger than his apartment!
‘Yes,’ he smiled, ‘thank you Mrs Broderick.’
She nodded and turned to her husband, firmly removing the file from his grasp. ‘We promised we would visit the Hamilton’s for brunch, honey,’ she said and he scowled.
‘Do we have to? I have important…’
‘Yes, we have to. Shane is ready and we can drive over now. Let Angus enjoy himself for a change. You can swim in the pool, Angus,’ Mrs Broderick said with a smile ‘or the beach?’
‘I’ll find something to do, Mrs Broderick,’ Angus said gratefully.
‘You can finish the financial analysis,’ Mister Broderick snapped. ‘I’ll look at them when I get back from this stupid brunch!’
His heart sank but Angus forced a smile. “Of course, sir.’ He scooped the files up and began to walk from the study.
As he walked quickly, he heard Mrs Broderick say, ‘you’re too hard on that boy, you should let him relax.’
‘I’m not paying him to relax!’
Angus almost threw the files into the pool as he stormed past but, thankfully, thought better of it.
Sighing, he sank into the easy chair next to the guest house windows and began calculating Return On Investment ratios. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Broderick’s climb into the Mercedes and drive down the sweeping driveway, the electric gates opening with an audible hum.
‘Bugger it!’ Angus dropped the file onto the floor and stood. ‘I’m going for a walk. I deserve some relaxation!’
Hands in pockets, Angus walked down the graceful lawns to the strip of sand that was the Broderick private beach and began to idly walk close to the water. Yachts were anchored off shore and he smiled as he saw some couples rowing together, laughter and giggles floating over the water.
America was larger than life in everything, so big, bright and powerful compared to his dim life in Edinburgh.
After his parents had been killed in a terrible motor accident, Angus had fled to America to begin a new life.
Working for Broderick was difficult and frustrating but the salary was excellent and gave him a reason for existing.
Looking up, he realised he had walked through the gate that isolated the Broderick beach from the neighbours and, in fact, he had walked through that beach and was now near the public promenade.
The promenade was crowded and Angus sauntered along, feeling the sun on his face and beginning to feel the stress and the tension begin to leave his shoulders.
He sat on a small wall on the edge of the beach and watched the families and lovers playing in the sun.
Seagulls flew low and concluded Angus had no food so flew away.
Lost in thought, he looked around, smiling at the children who ran excitedly onto the sand, the teen age boys on skateboards and the teen age girls preening and exhibiting themselves.
A thin old man with a long scraggly grey beard and equally long hair caught his attention. The man, obviously homeless was carefully sorting through the garbage cans and Angus immediately felt concerned for him.
Everyone else ignored the old man and Angus saw he was taking discarded bottles and putting them in a sack he carried. He carefully examined each bottle, discarding some but the majority found their way into the bag.
‘What on earth is he going to do with those?’ Angus murmured. ‘Sell them for cash or something?’ He may have been an economist but Angus was certainly unsure and inexperienced in the ways of the homeless.
The old man moved to the next garbage bin, stumbled a little and gripped the can for support. As Angus watched, the old man’s eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed onto the boardwalk in a crumpled heap. People glanced at him but ignored him as Angus leapt to his feet and dashed over.
The old man’s eyes fluttered open and Angus asked, ‘are you all right?’ He smiled ruefully. ‘That’s a bloody stupid question, isn’t it? Can you get up?’ Angus slipped his arm under the old man’s and gently helped him to his feet.
‘My bag!’ the old man called in a voice that sounded like the rumbling of an earthquake.
Angus bent down and picked it up, the bottles rattling together. ‘I have it. Come over here and sit down.’ He guided the old man to the wall and helped him sit. ‘When did you last eat?’
The old man appeared to try to focus on him and shrugged. ‘I’ll get you something,’ Angus said, looking around and, spying a hot-dog stand dashed over and bought two hot-dogs. ‘Here you go,’ he said, offering it to the man who snatched it and wolfed it down. ‘You were hungry, weren’t you?’ Angus smiled. ‘here, have this one as well.’
The old man snatched it and swallowed it in one easy motion.
The old man examined him with the palest eyes Angus had ever seen and nodded.
‘Good,’ Angus smiled, ‘here’s your bag.’
‘Thank you,’ the old man said in a clear and strong voice. ‘How can I repay you?’ he asked in an old fashioned way and Angus brushed the question away.
‘No need. I’m just glad you’re better. Make sure you eat, won’t you?’ Angus said. ‘Bye.’
Angus strolled off, turned a corner, and blinked in surprise when he saw the old man calmly seated on a bench outside the boat shop.
‘I asked how I could repay you,’ the old man said in that distinctive rumbling voice.
‘How…how did you…’
‘No matter. It is what I do,’ the old man said calmly. ‘Sit with me?’
‘It must be the heat,’ Angus said, sitting, ‘the sun’s bent my mind.’
‘The sun does no bending,’ the old man said with a smile, his eyes boring into Angus. ‘You are a kind man, Angus McLeod.’
Angus gawked at him. ‘How…’
‘No one stopped to help an old man, no one but you. The human race should be glad you exist.’
Angus shook his head. ‘I’m going insane,’ he murmured.
‘No, do not fear,’ the old man said seriously, ‘your mind is sharp and clear. Let us talk.’
‘Talk?’ Angus studied the man who appeared to becoming younger by the minute.
‘Yes. Let us go somewhere private.’
In an instant, Angus found himself seated on a log with the old man on a beach of white sand, coconut palms lined the land behind them and the sea was a clear and bright blue.
‘Cripes! Where the bloody hell are we?’ Angus stood up and desperately looked around but the beach was deserted.
‘An uninhabited Pacific island I’m quite fond of,’ the man said equally. ‘I am Giemsa, tester of the faith.’
Angus stared at Giemsa who now appeared to be younger, his beard was receding as was his hair and his clothes were becoming finer and richer.
‘I test the kindness and love of humans. If they pass the test, the race becomes closer to peace and enlightenment.’
‘If they fail?’
‘Earthquakes, storms, fires – whatever I feel is necessary to educate.’
‘Punish you mean!’
Giemsa shrugged. ‘You can interpret many ways if you choose.’
‘You test the human race?’ Angus looked around, wondering if he had inadvertently ingested one of those hallucinogenic drugs he had heard about at university. ‘Have we ever passed?’
Giemsa shook his head sadly. ‘No, but there have always been individuals who have continued to give hope. But, no matter. How can I reward you?’
‘Reward? Me? For what? Buying you a hot-dog? Don’t be silly. Can you get me back to…’
‘The Broderick house?’ Giemsa smiled at the shocked expression that flooded Angus’ face. ‘Yes, I can. Would you like me to punish them? The man Broderick makes your life a misery, does he not?’
‘Yes but that’s just the way he is…’
‘I can arrange for a terrible disease. Perhaps he could go blind…’
‘No,’ laughed Angus, not really believing Giemsa. ‘No, don’t do anything.’
‘Mrs Broderick? She seems unhappy with her life. I could end it…’
‘No, please, don’t do anything!’
‘Shane is arrogant and conceited, perhaps I could…’
‘Please, no! It’s not their fault they are that way and they are kind to me in their own way. They don’t know any different.’
Giemsa smiled warmly. ‘You are a kind person Angus McLeod. I can see you do not believe me but no matter. If you could wish for something, what would it be?’
Angus laughed loudly. ‘You’re offering me wishes? Are you a genie?’
Giemsa appeared puzzled. ‘Genie? No, I am Giemsa and I am offering you a reward, just one.’
The analytical part of Angus took over and he thought deeply. ‘I don’t think just one thing can ever improve things. There’s that old story. A man is offered three wishes and he immediately wishes for a million dollars. Poof! His bank account has a million. He then wishes for a Rolls Royce…’
‘It’s a car, a very good car. Poof! The car is parked in front of him and then he wishes to be irresistible to women. Poof! He’s turned into a box of chocolates.’
Angus laughed and Giemsa smiled. ‘You do not wish to be chocolates?’
‘No, of course not. It’s just so difficult to accurately decide what one wants so if this wish of yours was real, I would simply wish that things were better.’
‘Better? It is done. Thank you, Angus McLeod.’
There was a flash and when Angus opened his eyes, he was staring at the ceiling of the guesthouse.
It was a dream, he thought,
Angus smiled wryly, looked down as he prepared to get up from the bed and screamed! The scream, a very feminine scream of horror hung in the room as he – she– examined herself!
Breasts! Angus mentally screamed, I have breasts!
He scrambled to the mirror in a mad rush and stared at the reflection. A beautiful young woman with dark curly shoulder length hair stared back, her eyes wide with fear and horror.
‘Oh my god!’ he said aloud and stopped at the sound of the female voice. His voice, a female’s voice! ‘I’m a woman,’ he said softly, ‘Giemsa was real! But, how is this better?’
Slowly, he/she turned and examined the image. Dressed in a knee high black skirt, a business like blouse, it was the epitome of an efficient business woman.
Frantically, he bent and pulled the hem of the skirt up, long red painted fingernails snagging the skirts fawn lining and he stared at his smooth crotch covered by cream lace knickers and pantyhose.
Suddenly weak, he collapsed back onto the bed, staring vacantly into space, his head spinning as he cupped the large breasts attached to his chest through the blouse.
It was all disconcertingly real but at the same time familiar!
Unsteadily, he managed to stand and it wasn’t until he had walked across the room that he realised he was walking in high heels with apparent ease and familiarity.
‘How do I explain this?’ he whispered, staring at that strange face in the mirror.
The sound of the gates opening and the Mercedes coming up the driveway brought him back to reality.
‘They’ll throw me out,’ he gasped in panic in that unfamiliar and high voice but, he noticed, still with his – Angus’ – soft Scottish brogue. ‘I’ll be homeless with no identification, nothing!’
As he said it, his eyes fell on a black leather handbag on the dresser and he picked it up. Rummaging through it he found a brush, comb, compact, tampons, small perfume atomiser, keys, address book and a lot of other female paraphernalia as well as a small purse. With trembling hands, he opened it and removed the credit cards.
‘Oh my god,’ he breathed when he saw the name on the cards was Alice J. McLeod. Alice was his late mother’s name and he frantically rifled through the purse but all forms of identification were in the name of Alice McLeod!, not Angus
‘I’m Alice Jennifer McLeod,’ he said weakly, sitting down again. ‘Alice!’
Another thought occurred to him.
He opened the doors to the wardrobe next and found female clothes. There were far more clothes hanging than he, Angus, had brought plus an extra suitcase. The bathroom had cosmetics scattered over the bench and a hair dryer hung over the towel rail.
Staring at his reflection, he was shocked when his fingers, acting on their own volition, picked up a tube of lip gloss and expertly applied it to his lips. As he blotted them, he stared awestruck at his reflection. The habits are there, I’m becoming a woman!
Without thinking, he pulled his skirt up, knickers and hose down so he could sit on the toilet. As he used the toilet, he smiled wryly, despite the overwhelming fear. ‘I am already a woman!’
After adjusting his clothing, checking his face, Alice walked back into the living room of the guesthouse.
‘I must still be employed by the Broderick’s,’ he said, ‘I must be! If this is real, the world has changed around me, if this is…’
His mind reeled and Angus, now Alice, stared through the window and wondered how Mister and Mrs Broderick, together with their son Shane, would now accept him – her!
‘If this is magic,’ he concluded, ‘they won’t be astounded, they’ll accept me.’
What choice do I have?
Alice picked up the file and the R.O.I. calculations. Taking a deep breath, adjusting her hair, Alice walked through the door and up the path towards the house, her heels clicking on the path.
Her entire body felt awkward but, increasingly familiar although the altered centre of gravity was disconcerting as was the constant pulling of the bra strap.
But you need to, you are a big girl.
I’m wearing a bra!
Why am I so calm? I should be going around the twist now! Why so calm?
It occurred to him that whatever magic had been used – and he found it strange he so freely accepted that, indeed, magic had been used – it must also make him accept the changes as well as placing the habits, behaviours and skills within him.
‘Good morning, Alice,’ a deep voice said and Alice whirled to find Shane smiling at her.
‘Ah…good morning, Shane,’ Alice said carefully, wondering why Shane was so polite.
‘Dad’s in the study. You two workaholics should take some time off.’
Two workaholics? What does he say to that?
‘Uh…I agree but tell your father,’ Alice said almost cheekily and was surprised when Shane laughed.
‘I just might,’ he said with a wry grin. ‘We need to spend some time together,’ he suddenly whispered and Alice blinked.
Thankfully, Mrs Broderick emerged with a tray with a coffee pot and cups on it.
‘Alice, good morning! Did you sleep well?’
‘Very well, thank you,’ Alice lied, uncertain.
‘You look wonderful. You look very nice today. Doesn’t she Shane?’ she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
Immediately after recognising Mrs Broderick’s intentions, Alice wondered when she, the old Angus, became so perceptive.
‘Yes,’ Shane said, his eyes travelling up and down Alice, ‘very nice.’ He smiled at Alice who felt her face grow hot.
‘I’ll take the coffee in,’ Mrs Broderick said and Alice opened the study door for her. ‘Some coffee, darling?’ Mrs Broderick sang and Alice nearly fell over when she saw that Mister Broderick smiled back. It was a bright and cheerful smile, not the half scowl the old Mister Broderick claimed as a smile.
‘Excellent,’ he beamed and then smiled even more broadly on Alice. ‘Good morning, Alice.’
‘Ah…Good morning, Mister Broderick…’
‘Alice,’ he cut in, ‘Tony, remember? Call me Tony, okay?’
‘Well, yes,’ Alice said weakly, ‘if you insist.’
‘I insist. Now,’ he said, eyes falling on the folder in Alice’s hands, ‘don’t tell me you’ve been working? I thought we were going to relax?’
‘I just…ah…ran over…some figures…’
‘No shop talk today,’ Tony declared, ‘right Emily?’ he said to his wife.
‘Absolutely,’ she agreed. ‘I’ve made some tea for you, Alice. I know you don’t like coffee.’
‘Why don’t you and Shane take the boat out?’ Tony said with a small wink in Emily’s direction
‘Boat?’ Alice said feebly. What was going on?
‘It’s beautiful on the bay,’ Emily said. ‘You two could swim and catch up.’ There was that twinkle again, Mrs Broderick knows something.
‘Great idea,’ Tony enthusiastically agreed..
‘I’ll tell Bettina to prepare a small picnic for you.’
They beamed at her and Alice swallowed and forced a smile to her new face. ‘It is lovely…’
The door opened and Shane strolled in. ‘We were just saying,’ Emily said, ‘that you and Alice should take the boat out.’
‘Great,’ Shane said, smiling at Alice.
The three of them were looking at Alice and she suddenly felt obvious but, at the same time, surreal, as if she was in the midst of a dream.
‘I’ll get changed then,’ Alice said softly, trying to smile, trying to appear normal.
‘I’ll wait,’ Shane said with another warm smile and Alice fled to the safety of the guesthouse.
Sinking onto the bed, she glanced at her reflection in the mirror and sighed. I’m changing, I can’t help it. In fact, Alice suddenly realised, she had almost become used to this new body.
Looking up at the ceiling, she said softly, ‘Giemsa, can you hear me?’ Although feeling a little strange at speaking to nothing, calling on a mystical being, Alice persevered. ‘Giemsa? Please, change it all back! This isn’t better!’
There was no movement and no reply so Alice sullenly kicked her heels off, staring moodily at the floor.
Although Mister and Mrs Broderick seem happier and Shane…well, so does Shane.
He’s very cute.
Wait! What am I doing!
Alice stood up and stared at the mirror and a beautiful but confused woman stared back. Sighing, she slowly began to undress and it wasn’t until Alice was in her bra and knickers that the full impact of her new body swept through her.
Staring at this image of a beautiful woman in cream lingerie did nothing, nothing at all! In fact, Alice surveyed her image critically and wondered if she had put on a little weight around her thighs.
Wait! This is not you! This is…this is Alice!
Shaking her head to clear it of these strange thoughts, Alice rummaged through the clothes and found a green one-piece swimsuit with an island pattern around the bust.
Almost on automatic pilot, in a way that’s exactly what it was like, Alice stripped her lingerie off, undoing her bra expertly, massaging the flesh where the bra strap had cut into it and then slipped on the swimsuit without a seconds thought.
A short skirt, a white tee-shirt and white sandals were next. As she was tying her hair into a ponytail and adjusting her make up, she wondered what Shane would think of her in the swimsuit.
Suddenly, an image of Shane looming over her, smiling down and with a look in his eyes that told Alice very clearly that he was about to kiss her!
This is insane! Where are these memories coming from?
Alice gripped the dressing table to steady herself as thoughts collided within her mind, almost as if two parts of herself were arguing!
No, how is this better?
A small memory swam to the service and she sat down abruptly with the weight of the realisation.Alice stood and leaned close to the mirror, staring deeply into her eyes. A memory of a similar time when she stared at her newly pierced ears when she was just nine years old swept back to her and again, Alice shook her head. ‘I’m going,’ Alice said very softly, ‘Angus is going.’
Relax, enjoy it, see how the other half lives – the better half!
Alice picked up a striped canvas beach with trembling hands and transferred compact, purse, comb, brush and a other things from her handbag without thinking and then added a striped beach towel.
I liked it! I liked it when he kissed me!
‘Giemsa, where are you?’ she asked plaintively but only there was only silence.
Slipping the canvas bag over her shoulder, retrieving her sunglasses from the handbag – her handbag – Alice stepped outside and saw Shane sitting on the back step, a picnic basket by his legs.
Slowly, Alice walked up and Shane stood to greet her, a warm smile on his lips and his eyes tender and hot. Alice noticed his large hands, the outline of his forearms and felt a little warm.
‘Sorry,’ she said quietly, ‘it took me ages to decide what to wear.’
‘It was worth it,’ he said simply, taking her hand to pull her close. ‘I can’t get used to how beautiful you are.’
Heat surged through her as Shane held her loosely and softly kissed her, his warm lips pressing against hers and Alice found herself willingly returning the kiss.
‘I’ll take the picnic basket,’ Shane said. ‘I suspect Bettina has outdone herself.
Alice smiled and hand in hand they walked to the small jetty at the end of the house where the motor boat was moored.
They boarded the boat in a easy silence and Alice watched as Shane started the motor and guided the boat away from the jetty. His big hands cradled the wheel lightly and Alice wondered what it would be like to be held tightly by those hands, to be squeezed while kissed and then…
‘It’s a beautiful day,’ Shane said as he steered and grinned at her.
‘Yes,’ Alice responded, ‘it is so lovely here.’
‘I don’t think I could ever grow tired of your accent,’ he said.
‘Accent?’ Alice found herself saying cheekily. ‘I’m afraid you’re the one with the accent, darling.’
Shane laughed, a deep rumble that seemed to touch Alice tenderly in her heart. ‘So you insist.’ He glanced at the horizon and Alice sensed he was nervous. ‘Can you believe we’ve only known each other for just six months?’
Actually, it’s shorter than that! Try a few hours!
Images, real memories of that six months flooded her and she lived them all in just a few seconds.
‘I know,’ Alice gently said truthfully, ‘it’s been wonderful.’
‘Do you really think so?’ Shane asked urgently.
‘Yes, of course,’ Alice smiled and, again, wondered why he was so nervous.
Shane stopped the boat, dropped a small anchor and sat beside Alice.
‘Look, Alice,’ he said in a rush, ‘I know I’m useless at business while you’re such a genius. Dad thinks the world of you but, I have to tell you something.’
Alice stared at him, seeing his furrowed brow and his shaking hands. ‘What, darling?’ she asked, concerned.
‘Alice, I love you,’ he said.
Alice’s jaw dropped and Shane tenderly took her hand. Emotion coursed through her and she felt deliriously happy.
A tidal wave of hot emotion engulfed her and an immense affection – no, love – for Shane claimed her.
‘I love you, darling,’ she whispered – it was suddenly true, she did! – and they merged together to kiss.
Shane beamed at her. ‘I’m so glad, I’ve been worried like hell because,’ he said, rummaged in his pocket, producing a small box and opening it to reveal a glittering diamond engagement ring, ‘I want to ask you to marry me. Please, will you marry me? It’s a little difficult to kneel in a boat but I will if you want me to.’
Marry? He wants to marry me?
Alice burst into tears and clung to him.
‘Don’t give me an answer, darling,’ he whispered, ‘not yet. Please think about it.’
No, you love him! You have been hoping he would ask! What on earth is there to think about?
‘Yes,’ she found herself saying, ‘yes! Yes! Yes!’
Shane slipped the ring on her finger and she looked at it proudly.
A small but fading voice deep within her protested but Alice ignored it, kissing Shane deeply, feeling his hard body against hers and she knew this was what she wanted.
They broke apart almost shyly, smiled at each other and kissed again, the ring glittering on her finger and she could feel his hardness against her stomach as he pushed her back.
Other boats drifted past and he grinned sheepishly and arranged himself next to her, arm around her shoulders. Alice laid her head against his shoulder, pulling a towel over his lap and slipping her hand underneath it to caress his hard cock through his shorts.
‘You seem to love kissing me,’ she murmured, fingers stroking.
‘I love everything about you,’ Shane whispered, his lips in her hair, ‘but be careful, I could have an accident.’
‘You don’t like it?’ Alice pouted, slowly unzipping his fly under cover of the towel and looking up at him with a wicked grin.
‘You know I do, honey,’ he gasped as her fingers closed around his cock.
‘There are people watching,’ he cautioned as her fingers slowly slid up and down his cock, hidden by the towel.
‘I don’t care,’ she whispered, feeling wanton and loved!
‘You wicked woman,’ he moaned and kissed her again. ‘People can tell what you’re doing…’
‘All right,’ Alice said teasingly and released his cock, sliding her hand out from under the towel. ‘Later.’
They walked slowly back to the house, Alice’s head on his shoulder and holding hands.
‘Should I tell them?’ Shane asked softly. ‘Mom has guessed, I think.’
Alice recalled the twinkling eyes of Shane’s mother and agreed
‘Probably,’ Alice replied.
Should they casually announce they were getting married? What about Angus?
‘Let’s tell them,’ Alice said quietly and, at that moment, the last remnants of Angus felt life slipping away as his memories were subtly being altered to be viewed from Alice’s perspective. Being with Shane was more important than anything and the world suddenly seemed very different – better.
Mrs Broderick was in the kitchen, laughing and talking with Bettina the cook when they walked in.
‘Mom,’ Shane said with a grin, ‘we’ve something to tell you.’
He squeezed Alice’s hand while Emily and Bettina grinned, waiting expectantly. ‘I’ve asked Alice to marry me and she’s agreed.’
Mrs Broderick seized Alice in an enormous hug and Alice saw small tears in her eyes.
‘Alice! I’m so glad! This is great news!’
Bettina also seized Alice and hugged her and then turned her attention to Shane.
Tony Broderick, brought by the noise appeared in the kitchen.
‘Is this what I think it is?’ he asked excitedly and Shane grinned sheepishly. He warmly hugged Alice and smiled at her. ‘I guessed when Shane couldn’t take his eyes off you the first time you joined us. It’s great to have a daughter.’
Alice blushed and smiled at them all.
‘Thank you all so much. It’s wonderful. I’m so happy,’ she said and began crying.
Emily hugged her again. Tony Broderick slapped Shane on the shoulder, grinning up at him and Bettina announced,
‘No,’ Tony said, ‘champagne!’
‘Alice,’ Emily said suddenly, ‘do you want to call your parents and give them the news?’
‘My parents?’ Alice said stupidly.
My parents are dead! Angus floated to the surface and the world suddenly seemed strange again.
‘I’ve got the number,’ Shane said with a sly grin, ‘I rang your Dad and asked his permission.’
Emily and Tony laughed. ‘That’s my boy,’ Tony said proudly.
‘Yes, honey. They’re waiting for a call and they said it didn’t matter what time. Here, I’ll dial it for you.’
When the phone was in her hand and ringing, Alice’s heart was pounding so loudly she was sure it drowned out the excited buzz of conversation between the Broderick family.
The was a click and that warm, soft voice came on.
‘Hello, dear,’ Alice’s mother said excitedly. ‘How are you?’
‘Wonderful,’ Alice said and burst into tears. ‘I’m so happy,’ she sobbed.
‘You have some news, dear?’ Alice’s mother prompted, excitedly. ‘Your father is pacing up and down like a tiger. You know how he is.’
‘Mum, it’s wonderful to hear your voice…’
‘I’m getting married!’
‘I’m so glad! Shane is a wonderful boy. We both liked him when you flew home last month.’
We flew home last month? At that thought, memories of that wonderful trip flooded through Alice’s mind, filling the nooks and crannies with details and emotions. God, she loved Shane!
‘I’ll put your father on.’
There was a pause, then her father’s deep and mellow voice, always kind, filled her up.
‘How’s my little girl?’ Memories of sitting on his knee, walking hand in hand to the park and how he patiently helped her to learn to ride her bicycle swept through her. ‘Dad…’ Alice choked and tried to smile.
‘I’m so glad for you, he’s a wonderful boy. Although, I don’t know whether I’m ready to be a grandfather.’
Alice laughed. ‘Dad, you sound wonderful…’
‘I’m rather well, actually, Played golf yesterday and beat Edward for the first time.’
‘How is Uncle Edward?’
‘Still the same but he’ll be chuffed as well. Tell Tony we’re coming over.’
Tony was signalling and Alice smiled at him.‘I’ll put him on. My father,’ Alice said, holding the telephone out to Tony who eagerly took it.
‘Bill! Isn’t it great news! Sure, that’s great! Let me do the arrangements, you and Mrs McLeod will stay with Emily and I. It’s no problem, it’ll be fun!’
Alice took Shane’s hand and led him to the French doors.
‘I do love you, you know,’ she whispered.
‘I know and I know you.’
Alice slipped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest.
‘I never knew that life could be so…’