Epilogue

Epilogue

"Joel?...Joel?"

Sammy looked down at the mud oozing up the sides of her favourite petrol blue boots. But then it was her own fault for venturing out to this virtual building site without her wellies. She should have learned that January, bleak coastal town and torrential rain...didn't mix with expensive leather boots.

Five people milled about in high visibility jackets, hard hats and of course work boots. Most smiled at her, but one did try to hide a chuckle at her attempts to avoid the huge muddy puddles that surrounded her.

"Have you seen my husband?" She asked the laugher rather aggressively. Instead of looking embarrassed he laughed a little more, then pointed behind the large portakabin that she knew was the site office. All she wanted was to see Joel, her husband. That had been a huge change, and one she thought she'd never make again, but this coming summer would signify their second wedding anniversary. She wanted to smile at the thought of how happy she'd been with Joel over the last four years, but there was a joker grinning at her and she wasn't able to concentrate.

With a huff she made her way around the corner.

Joel was stooped over some blueprints with John, the site manager, and she wasn't sure whether he heard her, or sensed her anger approaching, but he looked up at her within moments.

"Sammy! You ok?" He gave a nod to John and the other man bundled up his papers and disappeared rather rapidly. "What are you doing here?" He grimaced, "in your fave boots..."

She sighed, "you weren't answering your phone!"

That made his face drop, "are you ok? Is everything ok?"

Her hand slid down her body to rest over the swell of their second baby, and she rubbed it affectionately, "it's fine, we're all fine, though someone seems to have forgotten that in less than an hour Eleanor has her school recital."

He hit his forehead with his hand, "sorry." He strode towards her across the mud and reached for her hands, "shit. I am useless."

She shook her head, "not useless, just a little too enthusiastic for this project, you have got a family too you know?"

He laughed, "I don't forget you, any of you for a moment. Has Clifford arrived?"

She nodded, Clifford, now separated from Margaret was a regular visitor to their still new home at the edge of town, he was a devoted grandfather to not just five year old Eleanor, who he doted on, but also to Jacob her two year old brother. There was no one else in terms of family except for Monica, but since she'd met a man, entered her first stable and normal relationship of her life, she was less frequent a visitor. The children, therefore, threw themselves at Clifford whenever he planned a visit.

"He's in the car being force fed cheese puffs by Jacob, we're going to drive on and keep you a seat."

He nodded, "I'll be there."

She smiled back, "will you clean up? No one needs to see your work clothes and mud." With that he looked menacingly in the direction of her boots. Sammy knew that expression and stepped back as his eyes lit up.

"So you want to avoid mud?"

She shook her head, "Joel...no!"

But with a chuckle he scooped her up into his arms then marched across the mud towards the waiting car.

As they got close Clifford jumped out and when Joel had lowered back onto safe ground, the two men embraced.

"Good to see you old man!"

Clifford grinned, "you too, though I have to say that it's your youngsters that I come here to see."

Joel rolled his eyes, as Clifford looked back towards the building site, "so it's all coming together then?"

After organising the building of their perfect house two years earlier, he'd got the bug, now he was organising the construction of six houses on a piece of land on the fringe of town, originally he'd thought to rent them out as holiday homes, but they were already attracting a lot of interest, and they were looking like giving them long term financial security, something he'd been concerned about since selling the London based business.

Joel grinned in a proud fashion, almost as proud of the project as his own family, "I can show you the plans later. But if I don't get my backside into gear I'll miss out on seeing Ellie's first solo singing performance."

"Thank you!" Sammy responded almost sarcastically, bundling them back into the car.



The recital was a success, but then twenty four singing and dancing five year olds were never going to disappoint their adoring parents who all sat silent and tearful watching their little darlings.

Stood in the school yard later, waiting for Eleanor to emerge, Clifford smiled at her, sliding his arm around her shoulder, "that was...amazing. I didn't take the time to do these things with my own kids..."

There was an air of sadness at that, he still saw his daughters, though the bitter split with Margaret had changed those relationships, and he hadn't seen Daniel since the court case that saw him receive a ten year sentence for fraud and corruption.

"And I don't think my mother ever came to any of mine."

She leaned into his shoulder and they both smiled, "time over Sammy, that's what this is."

Marcus was still there, and the three of them could talk about him openly these days without pain, awkwardness or sadness. And that was what he deserved. Pictures still existed of him, but they were as well as the photos of her wedding to Joel, the highs and pleasures of their life and the beautiful children they'd brought up. Before she'd got pregnant with Jacob, after much legal wrangling and the support of Clifford, Joel adopted Eleanor. Not that she knew anything more than him. They talked about Marcus all the time, it was important that she knew that she was lucky and had two fathers, and Clifford helped with that.

Joel had returned to work, but once Eleanor came skipping out of school they all piled into her car, and Sammy drove them to a nearby family run pub that had a great menu and a conservatory full of kid's toys. In a rare sunny moment, Clifford and Sammy sat watching the children play as they waited for Joel to arrive.

"So it was the appeal?"

Sammy threw that at Clifford as she knew that he found it hard to mention the man in her presence.

Nodding sadly he pondered an answer for a moment, "I don't know what to say. He is still denying everything, regardless of the evidence. The judge almost laughed out loud at his request. They said no. that's no surprise."

She reached out and placed a hand over his, "he's still your son, you are allowed to feel devastated."

"I would feel sad, remorse, pity...anything, if he would just admit it, face up to it. You know? Denying things all these years...it makes me despise him."

They were harsh words, but Sammy could feel the emotion in those words, how hard it was for him to repeatedly turn his back on Daniel, and she admired him for it.

"You are a good man Clifford, don't ever doubt that, it can't be easy for you, but you are strong, and right..."

He sighed, "I like your confidence."

"Marcus would approve, that's how I judge it, he'd hate all this, he'd hate what Daniel has become, and he'd hate his cowardice. But he'd love you. He'd want you to be this involved with us, with his daughter..."

Clifford smiled, "you are a very generous person."

"Oh God, is this sappy central? Shall I walk out and come back again?"

They both looked up to see Joel stood beside them smiling.

"I'm glad you've lightened the atmosphere, for a moment we were getting a bit morose."

Joel laughed and pulled out a chair, just as Ellie and Jacob spotted him and ran in his direction shouting "Dddddaaaaaddddd!"

"Did you see me sing Daddy? Did you?"

Both children hung around his neck as he assured her that she was the best singer he'd ever seen before, and tickled Jacob until he giggled uncontrollably.

"So have you ordered?"

They both shook their heads and all concentrated on the menu.


A few hours later the kids were in bed and Joel and Clifford were sat at the kitchen table drinking whisky and talking. Sammy gave them a wide berth, she was tired, this baby...she rubbed at her stomach affectionately, this baby was exhausting her. She was only twenty weeks, but she felt physically exhausted, she was getting old, that was the problem. Curling up her feet, she cuddled on the sofa and closed her eyes.

Reaching for her handbag, she pulled out a small envelope. Inside were four grainy images of the baby, another boy. She hadn't wanted to know, but Joel was like a child, a trait she'd not known in him until they'd moved in together, until they got married. But anything involving their home, their family brought out that side in him, the side that loved the chance to have what he hadn't had. He was devoted to her and the children, just the night before he'd joked that he wanted another three. At least she hoped it was a joke. The way her body felt she couldn't do this again.

But she had been able to do it at all, when she'd had those blood tests after her mother had cancer, she had no idea what that would mean for her future, but Joel as ever had held her up physically and literally as he took her for the results of those tests.

She hadn't heard the words, the doctor confirming that she didn't have the genes linked to cancer, but she felt Joel's arms wrap around her, squeeze her tight, kiss her cheek.

Since Joel had come into her life, he'd definitely made things better. Without him she had nothing to look forward to, she had no security and she'd felt doomed to fail. Now...now she had it all, and it was thanks to him.



"Hey Sleeping Beauty?"

A warm voice softly at her ear woke her up, though she wasn't aware of actually falling asleep. The breath against her skin made her shiver; this man was like electricity to her senses. Opening her eyes she met his, close to her, she couldn't see anything but him, and it wasn't scary, it wasn't overpowering, it was perfect.

"I love you."

That made him smile, "glad to hear it. Clifford's just gone up to bed; he knows that Ellie will be waking him up at the crack of dawn."

She smiled, "he's so good, it's great that they have a grandfather, isn't it?"

Nodding, he tugged her to her feet, "especially one who has just bought a beach side villa in Florida."

Her eyes widened, "what?"

He laughed, "he told me earlier, he's bought a place. Margaret had their holiday home in Cannes in the divorce, so he wanted somewhere else...and we can go and stay there whenever we want!"

Grinning she slid her arms around his neck, "you offering me a holiday in the sun?"

Swooping down to kiss her neck he grunted a yes against her skin.

"Well I'm not going now, not while I look like a whale."

He stepped back shocked, "seriously?" When she nodded, he shook his head softly, "I cannot tell you how beautiful you are like this, pregnant...knowing that you're growing our little boy in there." He snuck a hand between them to caress her firm belly. "You are devastating in your dirty gardening clothes, you are breathtaking when you wake from sleep, but add this into the equation..." he almost moaned, "I can barely keep my hands off you."

Lifting her chin to look down at him, she elevated an eyebrow, "really? Is that just a comment...or a promise?"

Grinning, for the second time that day, he scooped her up into his arms and marched upstairs to their bedroom, words weren't needed. As always, Joel Edwards relied on actions to speak the loudest.