"Rita, Rita," I yelled while running into her cafe.
She was standing in the kitchen holding a big boiling pot of stew. I placed Ayden on the floor then took the pot off her and put it on the bench.
"What’s the matter Den?" I couldn’t stop the tears that flowed or slow my beating heart, and Ayden was screaming.
"Nanny sit, nanny sit."
I took her hand and made her sit at the table in her kitchen, she looked at me strangely and put her hands to her head.
"Spinning Den, bad headache, spinning," she managed to say as Evan and Tiny came in and instantly Tiny said to him,
"Get me an aspirin from the first aid kit, quick Evan." He opened bubs’ baby cabinet and found a packet of aspirin, everything else fell to the floor. Then Tiny got a glass of water and made Rita take it, he then checked her pulse.
"Blue go to my car and get my black bag out of the boot, I think she's having a stroke. Bubs let out a loud cry.
"No presser, presser."
"Okay bubs, I hope your right. Rita still looked stunned.
"Mum, mum, are you all right, what's the matter with her?" Alex cried.
Rita tried to hold his hand but she lost the battle and fainted.
Blue came back with the bag and Tiny took out a blood pressure device. He pumped it up and looking at his watch then he slowly let the air out.
"It's as high as a kite Alex. I have to call the doctor and get some blood pressure pills into her. If I call him can one of you pick up the prescription and go to Longford to get the pills?"
"Yes, I can do it," Donk said.
"Good, can you go now and I'll call." Donk raced off towards his car.
"Den soak that tea towel in cool water and put it on the back of her neck please."
Tiny was in charge and everything possible was being done for our friend. He made a phone call then watched her.
She slowly came to and stared at everyone while Ayden was climbing up onto her knee.
"Okay now nanny, okay, rest little."
"What's happening Tiny?" She tried to smile.
"Your blood pressure is through the roof, we got to you just in time and the pill should thin your blood out. I don't think you will have a stroke or a heart attack, according to doctor Bubby." He smiled. Crying was heard from the porch, deep guttural sobbing.
"Den, that's Spud, could you please go and tell him I'm okay?"
I went out and sure enough Ali had a hold of a very, very upset Spud.
I put my arms around both of them and said,
"She's going to be all right, we got to her in time. Ayden said she was all right; you have to believe him." Spud was shaking, he was so upset.
"What if?" I didn't let him finish.
"There are no what ifs Spud, she's going to be all right, just believe that." I kissed both their heads.
If she had collapsed with that big pot of stew in the kitchen, god knows what would have happened. The realization hit me hard, I could have walked in to a much worse situation.
I walked up to the shop then into the lounge room and let fly with a deep sob. I stayed there for awhile until I gathered myself. By the time I arrived back to the kitchen Rita was laughing with Ayden and Alex, and Tiny was confident she was going to be okay.
Spud and Ali sat down with her, Spud was holding her hands and stroking them and Ali was stroking Spud’s. Because the kitchen was so full we all decided to go sit at the big table outside. Blue was making coffee and Alex started to help.
"I've got this baby, go sit with your mum." He held Alex tightly against him.
"I'll help you Blue, she's got plenty of friends down there to look after her," he replied, he's a cool cookie.
I think Spud had retired to his room, I didn't see him or Ali around so I went up to Rita and grabbed my little boy.
"Spud needs him I think."
"He's had a scare Den, I can't help him at the moment because doctor Tiny has ordered me to sit and be quiet, in other words to shut up and rest." She chuckled.
Taking Ayden up to Spud’s bedroom I said to him,
"Make Spud more happy bubs, okay?"
"Okays daddy." He put on his happy face as I knocked on the door then opened it. Spud was still crying; he has had a big shock.
"Here, take care of the baby for a few minutes will you?"
"Sure Den," Ali replied. I placed Ayden on the bed and he immediately went to cuddle up to Spud.
Why didn't I see it, why didn't I paint it? I should have known this was going to happen. Apart from Birdie’s painting, I really haven’t tranced since my memory came back, maybe Ayden knows why? Maybe my trancing was just that, my memory trying to force its way back.
I went and joined the men and Rita and could see Tony and Birdy running down the road. Horse must have rung them. Birdy stood back and stared at her, I could tell he was really terrified. Rita came to the rescue and pulled him over to her knee.
"It's okay little man, nanny just had a fainting spell, nothing to worry about. I am all right. Now, how have you been, I haven’t seen you all day?" She kissed his cheek and he settled down a little, then smiled.
"Busy nan, money making." His smile got larger.
"Well don't forget I need to see you every day. I miss you and our little talks."
"Okay nan, I come every day."
"A bloody fainting spell, a bloody fainting spell. Horse, I thought you told me she had a stroke, it's a fucking fainting spell?" Tony yelled at Horse.
Birdy jumped off her knee and shot up to the kitchen to do a task for her I think.
"Tony, for god's sake shut up, otherwise we will all cop it." Horse smiled at him.
He shut up when Birdy returned with the biggest ladle he could find. He handed it to Rita then got back on her lap staring straight at Tony.
Donk finally arrived and Tiny got her to take the pill, he said she is to take it every morning and he will get some baby aspirin for her to take at night. He will also monitor her blood pressure every day just to make sure she's doing the right thing.
"I know you don't have to lose weight Rita but a better diet will help so put yourself on bubs’ menu for awhile, lots of veggies and very little meat." She stared at him and finally spoke,
"Yes doctor Tiny."
I went and put my foot in it and said,
"Well Kate's chemist shop is a must have down here now, and Tiny, get back to the hospital, we need a new doctor, the old one’s just giving out prescriptions with no consultations at all." That got a laugh. Donk went quiet and I knew he was thinking about Kate. I pulled him aside and said,
"Get in that bloody car then go to the city and grab her in your arms and tell her you still love her."
He looked strangely at me.
"Do it now, and do it right, woo her again, make her feel like she's worth it and the only woman in the world for you. You have ignored her for too long. Go get her before someone else moves in."
He nodded his agreement then sat down next to Horse. He knows everything and will steer Donk in the right direction.
With Rita's scare out of the way, everyone finally settled down.
"The stew is for your dinner boys but it might need warming up."
Spud had taken that chore and a little later Ali followed him down the porch with a big bowl of mashed potato and stew. Birdie and Ayden retired into his bedroom to look at his paintings and Evan opened the shop, while Alex and Blue went for a well deserved lie down.
"She will be fine Den, if she takes her pills and watches what she eats that is." He was staring at Rita putting some spuds and stew in a bowl. She looked over at us and said,
"Sue me, I'm hungry." Then she proceeded to eat her very, very tasty meal.
Mike had gone home, then Jack and Anne with the baby came up for dinner. Bubble and Tush had arrived home and after hugging Rita they took over the kitchen. Mavis had heard the commotion and sat with her having a small meal herself. We pulled up another table for Jack and Anne to sit at and Emma was placed in the bean bag. When Ayden heard she was here he and Birdy raced out to talk to her. I managed to get some meat and potato into him, but after a couple of spoonful’s he refused to eat anymore, so I passed him over to his pa who got some more meagre scraps in.
After the food was finished, Donk, Tiny, Nuts and Horse went for an early evening surf and I could hear them screaming from where I sat. Rita was a big part of their lives too and they loved her very much, and not just for her food, many times she has sat with each of them talking for ages.
Hulk and Jay came looking for Birdy so they took some stew for dinner and kissed and hugged Rita then left us to it. Something was in the air tonight, everyone was worried but trying to do their best to get on with it.
"I'll be sleeping in your room tonight mum." Spud was adamant.
"Not likely kiddo, your boyfriend will keep me awake with all his moaning and groaning." She giggled. Spud looked at Ali who in turn looked at Rita. He said,
"Sorry Rita, I am a bit loud sometimes but not as loud as your snoring." He blushed.
"Now Jack, the frames, do you think you can do them?" Tony changed the subject.
"Yes sure Tony, that's if Den still wants me to." I looked him in the eye and said,
"Well there's no one else I have in mind Jack; we have to come to a price agreement."
"Well Den, your family so I can do them for a hundred and fifty wholesale to you, with glass and mounting. I will need a piece of each item so I can fit them properly."
"Okay, three fifty it is, and no arguments. I can't be bothered bargaining with anyone tonight," I said. Jack went to protest.
"No," I once again shut someone up and added,
"I said no arguments, three fifty agreed, no more, no less."
He sat back and stared at me.
"Did you catch any fish?" I changed the subject again.
"No." He smiled. Then I had to go on,
"Also Evan has something to run by you tomorrow so make yourselves available in the morning to go on a short trip."
"Where to Evan?" Jack looked at my man suspiciously.
"Well he's not going to take you into the tea trees Jack, if that's what's on your mind, although he's very good." Jack went white as Evan of course shouted,
"Den! Behave yourself."
I shrugged it off, I wasn't going to let the cat out of the bag so I looked at Mike coming up the porch and said,
"Mike has already agreed so you have to say yes too."
"I did no such thing Den, I never agreed to anything." Poor Mike’s face matched his fathers. I laughed until Evan flicked my ear.
"Den, stop teasing our guests." I laughed harder and Ayden was laughing with me, he got the joke.
"What's this all about Evan?" Anne was curious.
"Tomorrow Anne, just meet us here at nine or ten; or when your ready."
Rita got tired early and said she was going to bed so Spud and Ali went with her just to make sure she made it. The boys did the dishes and cleaned up, there won’t be any more diners tonight so they closed shop early. Emma stirred so I picked her up and smelt her baby smells, but she wanted her momma, not some scratchy faced old man.
I noticed Tony had slipped away and the boys waved as their cars left my backyard. Evan wasn’t really in a mood with me, I think he was just staying close to see if I was all right. Jack, Mike and Anne went home to their fairy lit caravan and Mavis was pooped so she said her goodnights and left too, she wanted to watch a show on TV. There was only Evan, Ayden and I left to sit and look at the moon.
"He did well today Den, it was awesome to watch. I didn't have to do anything because I knew his folk were with him. I could feel them on my body." I was pleased and smiled at him. One day he might see the real thing if he's lucky.”
"He did bubs, but he still can't go down the beach by himself, fairy folk or not, he's not to go, king did you here me?" I looked over at Ayden, he was fast asleep. I got up and turned out the porch lights then we moved into our home where there was a warm glow coming from his bedroom.
We put him to bed making sure we didn't wake him, and he had that smile on his face again. I kissed him then felt around in his big boy's night nappy; it was dry and I said to Evan,
"I think we should shower bub. I need to scratch that itch again tonight." His gorgeous blue eyes lit up and he moved us both to the bathroom.
"Don't do that again Den, it wasn't nice."
"You didn't like it bub? I thought you liked it a bit rough."
"No, call me your bitch at the top of your lungs."
I don't recall doing that, but I will certainly scream it again if the opportunity comes up. He stared at me, grinned then said,
"Sorry, it was a bit of a turn on." He passed over the lube and I talked very loud into his awesome ear. He was in raptures by the time I had finished, he wouldn’t stop groaning.
"Was that what I wasn't supposed to do bub?"
"Yes Den, can't wait until tomorrow night, good night my sweet thing."
"Good night my beautiful bitch." He giggled, and I had a giggle along with him, I'm such a very dirty boy.
In the morning I could hear Ayden use his potty, then he skipped in to see if we were awake. Evan pulled him into bed and I said,
"Where’s my good morning kisses?" He did me all over my face, I wiped them off then he did his pa. Then we both did him and tickled him as we did. His legs were everywhere; he has got such a beautiful laugh. Sometimes I think it was sent to compensate us for his little baby smells we had lost somewhere along the way.
We waited for Jack and Anne to turn up while Mavis was sitting at the table already when we came out, and Rita was on board with the coffees and egg and bacon rolls.
"Did you have a good night baby?"
"Yes Den, the boys sat up until late watching a movie, then I think they were playing hide the sausage because Ali was being very loud again. I finally got off to sleep around two, I think. So much for an early night." She laughed. I didn’t have a smart reply to that one. Mavis giggled and said,
"You had better get them to go home when the boys leave Rita, then you can get a good night’s sleep."
"Oh, I don't mind really, I love having them so close to me. I think I will buy a megaphone in town next time, then I can tell them to shut up without getting out of bed." She laughed more. I stared, thinking it could have been so different this morning for us all.
"Don't you worry about me Den, my son, grandson and doctor Tiny have it all under control."
I huffed, she's become a mind reader too.
I saw the guys come across the road and Rita went to get more coffee. They sat with us and Mike had a big grin on his face as Jack stared at Evan, then said good morning. He greeted them back and had another coffee.
Spud and Ali came down with Blue but Alex was indisposed as he hadn’t slept much, so Blue did the first shift.
Ayden's arms went out and Blue picked him up, giving him a big kiss.
When we had finished our coffees Evan asked,
"Shall we go?"
Everyone agreed and Mike replied,
"Yes Evan, let’s go, I need a good laugh." He looked at Mavis. I think she told him because she blushed. Mike giggled.
"Mike you’re not helping," I said,
We got everyone into the car and Evan drove carefully to the local shops. Ayden wanted to have a word to his nanny so he was left sitting in the kitchen with her. I suppose she's feeding him all kinds of the good stuff, and he's healing her blood pressure.
We pulled up outside the four shops, the doctor’s surgery which Tiny is going to take over and Art West's holiday book shop that looks like its never been opened. But I can see stacks of book cases loaded with reading material. Then there were the two Evan and I had bought, one for Kate's chemist shop and one for Jack's cabinet making store. He opened the front door of the end one and we walked into a large musty smelling showroom. I turned the power switch on and said to our guests,
"Go have a look through, there’s three bedrooms, two baths, a large living room and a huge shed out the back, room for a big bungalow too, go look."
"Why are we looking Den?" Jack asked.
"Just to see if you like it. Evan and I bought it for a song a few weeks ago, we want your opinion." He didn’t believe me but moved through the shop to the back. The place was okay actually, better than Tiny described them. Just a lick of paint, a nice kitchen and some new curtains are needed.
Mavis kept smiling at me, Evan was being business like and was pointing out the features and saying that a lovely new kitchen would look good overlooking the vacant block next door.
We finally got to the back yard and I think Mike has already picked his room out.
"There's plenty of room for a granny flat here Evan. I wonder if you know a granny who would like to live here?"
"You’re not doing this Den. Evan, if you think we are moving down here you can think again. It's just not going to happen." Jack finally twigged.
"Why not?" I put on my whiney voice.
"Because Mike has school, I have a business in the city and Anne likes her house, her mum is close by." I got him then.
"Mike can travel to Morwell to finish his schooling on the bus, it’s not far. You can move your operations down here. Look out that window, plenty of old holiday houses that need kitchen upgrades and if that’s not enough there’s double that in Longford. Anne and Emma I'm sure will love the relaxed life down here, also the Government will give you a granny flat for free, and Mavis will be happy in your backyard. The fishing jetty is a five-minute walk away; you could fish in your lunchtime."
Jack went pale again, he had no answers for me, because I reckon I am winning and he knows I make a lot of sense.
"Look Jack, you pay enormous rent where you are, and on your house. Mike, when he's ready can have my apartment in the city to live in and he can take in borders to make some easy cash. It’s not far from the doctor’s college and will have his licence by then, it’s not a long trip up the freeway to the city. If he doesn’t want to live in it then he can commute from here. All you have to do is rent this place, pay the outgoings which down here aren’t that much and Emma will live the perfect country life. Horse will throw more business at you too if you are down here, put a reasonably priced display kitchen in the shop as a sample and watch the money pile up." I think I was finished.
Jack was speechless, he had a lot to think about. Mavis and Anne had grins on their faces and Mike was very excited to move here.
"I can't do that Den, you make it sound so easy, but I just can't move my family down here. That's taking the friendship too far, you shouldn’t have asked us. Please rent it to someone else."
Mike took over, you have got to love him.
"I'll take it Evan and Den. I can live out the back and gran can come and live with me. I want some of your kitchen samples dad, I reckon I could make a really good go of it."
"Mike your going to college, you can't run a business and study," Anne said.
"No mum I can't, but I can just do the kitchens, who needs college when there’s loads of money to make?"
"Mike stop it, and stop it now," Jack was getting angry.
"Why dad, you do it. But I think there’s something really wrong with working twelve hours a day, busting a gut to make a pittance that the tax man takes a share of every year. No, I reckon this place is so cool, and I will take it. Evan, where do I sign?"
Jack put his hand on Mike’s shoulder and said,
"Let’s go son." He started for the door then turned back.
"Anne, Mavis let’s go, come on Mike."
"Dad stop." Mike didn't turn but he did stop and heavily breathed out.
"Do you think I can't remember the nights you sat up with me when I was so petrified of the dark. I remember your tired eyes from working from dawn to dusk, but you always had the time to sit with me. As tired as you were you sat with me anyway, until I went to sleep, and sometimes it took me ages to do that. I remember hearing you crying from my room. You are the best dad in the world and if I ever come within a bee’s dick of who you are, I would be so proud because you’re an awesome father." Tears started flowing down Mike’s cheeks.
Jack turned and had dropped his head to hide his tears.
"I did it because I love you Mike, I'm your father and that's what I was expected and wanted to do." Mavis walked away, she was quietly sobbing into her hanky. I think Anne was just in shock. This was a husband she had never seen before in public.
"Dad please do this, it’s a golden opportunity to downsize, do something for yourself dad. Mum, gran and I want so desperately for you to be happy. Take some time just for you dad. We are okay, and will help where we can. Don't do this for us, do it for you. The magic of the bay will see you right, I am convinced of that."
Jack took three big strides back towards Mike and instantly he was hugging his beautiful, intelligent son. They both hung on for ages until Mike said,
"Jesus dad, you don't half have some grip in you, can you let go, I'm suffocating here." He smiled at his dad and Jack looked Mike up and down.
"I couldn't be more proud of you my son. Evan can you keep the offer open for a few days. My family have things to discuss because it's not my decision to make alone."
"Of course Jack, take as long as you need, we have Horse’s men coming to renovate it. You know, to make it more family friendly, a big new window at the front, new bathrooms, things like that."
"You don't have to do that; I can do it."
"What and have my other son living in a hovel. No, we will do it so we make sure Mike has a nice big room to study in. That's if you take it of course. I suppose we could find another cabinet maker to rent it too," I chipped in.
I was trying to be helpful but Evan blurted out,
"Den, shut up, he's already thinking about it." I blushed.
"Let’s go, we have a lot to talk about," Jack said to Evan.
Evan locked up and I walked past the shops to the car. I put my head to the bookshop window. Maybe it only opened during holiday season, for some reason I looked at the Daily Mail write up in the window and the headlines read, ‘Celebrated author Art West captures the imaginations of his readers and takes them on a journey to another world in his new book.’ That was all I could read because the fine print was slowly decaying in the sunlight.
When we arrived home Ayden ran out and jumped up into my arms.
"Did you miss me?' He nodded yes.
Alex brought sandwiches and drinks down to us all. A determined looking Jack took Evan out to the back porch and they talked for ages. Anne, Mavis and I had a family discussion about free bungalows while Mike snaffled Spud, Ali and Blue who in turn took Ayden for a jet ski ride.
"Wetsuit and lifejacket bubs," I reminded him
"Okay daddy." Mike helped him with them while Blue hooked up the trailer.
"Where are your bathers Bub?" I heard Mike ask.
"No bather, go nakkid." He giggled.
"Oh, okay big fella." Mike also giggled as Ayden helped him take his shorts off, my kid has no shame.
"What do you think mum, would you like to live down here?" Anne asked Mavis.
"It would be absolutely lovely Anne. I think it's the perfect place for us all, and Den's right. Mike can catch a bus to school, he hasn’t that long to go anyway. I have thought about his apartment in the city too. If we get Mike a solid car, he can drive to Dandenong and do his college there. It’s only a thirty-minute drive down the freeway so I don't think there's any need to take over your apartment Den. I reckon we would do okay here, and there’s Jack to consider. Mike is right, he works his ass off to pay heavy rents so we all can live in some sort of comfort. I think it's time we gave him some of that back." She looked around at what she could see of the bay, then smiled at her daughter.
"It would be good for Jack, he loves fishing and he won’t have to be in the shop all the time. I could do it too and maybe you could help mum." Anne was in agreement.
"I will definitely be on call my lovely, and Emma gets to see her nanny everyday too."
"He works so hard Den. I have a feeling this will be so good for him." Her tears arrived so I put my arm around her and soothed her with my hushed words, I was agreeing with her one hundred per cent.
"What did you both decide bub?" I finally got Evan to myself after Jack and Anne went back to their caravan.
"He's excited Den, it's all new to him. He thought he would be stuck in that workshop forever so he's busting to do it, and trying so hard not to show his hand. We have agreed on a rent, there won’t be any free rides and I think that's the right thing to do with Jack." I kissed him because he's such a babe when he's being serious.
"He also said he could do the bathrooms, so I will see how he goes with them, otherwise I will call Horse’s men in. I will get it painted and a wall taken out to make the showroom bigger. Yes, he's going to take it." He grinned.
"Well a simple yes or no would have sufficed." I grinned back. We locked stares then suddenly we both had the same idea and headed for the bedroom for an afternoon nap, yeah right.
I took some sandwiches down while Evan slipped into his wet suit. The boys came in and Ayden was so far out with Blue I could barely hear his screams. It wasn’t long until my man caught up with me and Blue and the boys were into the lunch when he realised it was here.
Ayden jumped up and down so I had to search for his small sandwich bag, then he sat cross legged with his boys and ate it all.
A little later Mike, Ali and Spud came over and I gave Mike the thumbs up. He grinned and I made him even happier when I said to him,
"When Trip gets back we will get him to look for a reliable car for you. I want you to get it sooner rather than later so you can practice."