Author: balladofbliss PM
"... With each step toward her, Billericay and everything he's ever considered home is beginning to slip away." One-shot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Family - Smithy - Words: 1,575 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Published: 03-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7910529
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Smithy stands in the centre aisle of the church after it happens, feet frozen to the ground below him. He is vaguely aware of the weight of Neil the baby, who's now beginning to fuss in his arms, and the guests' whispered comments as they shuffle out past him. There are a lot of hushed remarks about some clinic appointment, and antibiotics, and how Dave never could have been what Nessa needed. There's something angry and unintelligible from a pair whom Smithy can only assume are Welsh nationalists. Bryn is urgently muttering to Doris about what should be done with the cake; Smithy catches the words "Scott" and "munchies" in her reply.
Pam attempts to get his attention as Mick ushers her toward the open wooden door. Gavin knows better than to try. He simply pats Smithy's shoulder as he passes, and despite his stomach churning and his heart pounding in his ears, Smithy knows she's done the right thing. He just hopes Nessa agrees… and has no idea what life will look like if she does.
The church is empty now, but for the two of them and the boy who's kept them glued together despite their best efforts. He looks at the floor, the pews, anywhere but at her.
She speaks first. "All right?"
He swallows hard, forces himself to meet her eyes. "Yeah," he replies softly. "I'm… um, I'm sorry to tell you like this, I know it was- "
"It's all right," she says, almost dismissively but without any anger or frustration. "You've been telling me for months, haven't you? Thing is, if someone don't want to hear you, they won't." She pauses, looks away. "I wouldn't."
He nods. They fall into an uneasy silence until Neil the baby babbles loudly, reaching his arms out toward his mother.
Smithy lets out a breath he doesn't know he's been holding. "Here, he wants you," he says, relieved to return to the only consistently comfortable topic of conversation they've ever had. As he starts moving to bridge the gap between them, he vaguely realizes that with each step toward her, Billericay and everything he's ever considered home is beginning to slip away.
He keeps waiting for it as the weeks turn into months, for the homesickness to tear into him savagely like a fish hook, bringing him to his knees as it shreds him from inside out. But it doesn't come.
Not when he's cramming the contents of his old bedroom at his mum's into his car by the armful. (He's never understood the point of putting things in boxes. "It's just another step," he explains to a skeptical Gavin upon his arrival at the new flat in Barry. "C'mon, grab those shirts there.")
Not when Bryn drags him to a bizarre lunch with Dick Powell, during which Smithy is absolutely certain nobody understands one another, but which concludes with Bryn proudly instructing Smithy to report to the office of a successful local contractor the following morning to start his new job.
Not even the weekend that Gavin and Stacey are up in Essex for some great-uncle's funeral and Nessa brings Neil the baby to see her father in Swansea. (He's a bit bored, but there's really no harm in that, every once in a while.)
What he does get are twinges, like splinters that hint at the agony he's considered inevitable. When he listens to a drunken voicemail from Budgie and Chinese Alan after a West Ham victory, he briefly aches to turn back the clock and somehow find his way to the stadium to celebrate with them.
When Rudi mentions offhand that his second-favourite chip shop is closing ("Too many health code violations to bribe the inspector this time, I heard," she chirps into the phone), he retorts just a little too harshly that she doesn't know anything, and besides, if dropping the fish on the floor before into the fryer makes it taste that good, all the better for it.
When he forgets what station Top Gear is on for the hundredth time, he throws the remote down onto the sofa so hard it bounces back up and hits him in the jaw.
But as he begins to feel each twinge take hold of him, he takes a deep breath and waits for the moment to pass. Rarely if ever does it take long to do so.
Besides, it's always worth the payoff. Being asked by his boss to head up a major construction project; it's the first time in his life that he isn't cutting corners at work, and he's amazed at how fulfilling it is to do things properly. Walking past the beach on his way home, tasting the salt in the air as the sun shimmers orange into the horizon. The smiles he receives: squealing laughter from Neil the baby, gummy becoming gap-toothed more with each passing day, and hesitant smirks from Nessa, in which (to his surprise) he delights.
He's not sure when it starts, but at some point there's an unspoken agreement that their original arrangement – the one where he sleeps in the second bedroom – no longer applies. Smithy tells himself it's only because Neil is getting older and will need a room of his own soon, and that it wouldn't do to sleep on the sofa, would it – but he knows that's not really true.
Things begin to change after he transfers his clothes into the bureau and Neil begins to sleep in the crib in his own room instead of the bassinet beside his mother's – really, his parents' bed. Nessa brushes her hand over his shoulder as she passes him in the kitchen. She squeezes his arm when she notices him looking drained after a long day at work. And when he asks her to marry him – quietly this time, early one morning when it occurs to him that he really doesn't want to be away from her ever again – she says yes.
The twinges become fewer and further apart as time passes. As neither of them particularly wish to have a church wedding, given the circumstances, they head to the register office, where a tremendously surly judge performs a forty-second ceremony. As Smithy struggles to keep up with the judge's brisk demands for assent to their vows, he sees Gavin out of the corner of his eye, shooting a bewildered expression at a heavily pregnant Stacey, who is desperately attempting to suppress her giggles.
Everyone congregates at their flat afterward for a Chinese takeaway and to present the newly married couple with gifts. They unwrap an omelet pan from Gwen; a DVD of Love Actually from Bryn (a silent glance between them confirms that it will mysteriously disappear as soon as the guests leave); a photo album from Gavin and Stacey.
Everyone passes that one around, laughing at their sullen portrait as wedding attendants, their chuckles melting into "aww"s as they flip through pictures of the couple with their son. The last several pages are blank, "so's you can take more pictures and put 'em in, like," Stacey explained excitedly.
Pam and Mick give them a cheque. Inside the card, Mick's spidery handwriting reads, "Hell of a journey, eh?"
Smithy feels a smile creep across his face of its own volition, allows his eyes to dart up and meet his wife's, taking in a grin that mirrors his own. He is aware that a world exists outside this room, this town, this country – but at the moment, he really doesn't give a damn.
Months become years. Neil the baby becomes Neil the most fascinating little person he's ever met, with a stocky build and a mouth smart enough to put both of his parents to shame. Smithy does his best to conceal his bemused pride each time the nursery teachers complain about some comment or other Neil has made in front of his innocent and impressionable peers. Not that Neil is likely to have any luck corrupting his best friend; despite being a year younger, Trevor Shipman is every bit the foil his father is. (He also has his mother's complete inability to keep a secret, which ruins most of Neil's schemes before they can be set into motion.)
Today has been one of those in-between days, typical of Barry in late spring: too warm for a jacket, but too cool to go without. Smithy concedes to the weather and strikes a compromise, pushing the sleeves of his zip-up sweatshirt up past his elbows.
He approaches the pier, waves to Nessa and Stacey up ahead. Gwen must have dropped the kids off at the amusement centre near the end of Nessa's shift; Neil and Trevor chase a football across the sand, while Alison, with Stacey's fair hair and Gavin's smile, toddles behind them.
From the opposite direction, he sees Gavin coming around the corner, loosening his tie as he walks. Smithy quickens his pace as he watches an evening full of possibilities stretch out before him toward the sunset.
This is the beautiful life into which he had enough dumb luck to stumble.
This is home.