A happier new year?

Lucky for them, no-one caught them as Alec went back to join the celebrations. John saw him but left him alone, thinking the two of them would figure it out and wondered if everyone at school would suddenly start to notice them? Maybe the theory he'd made up was actually right?

The next day, Rose had guessed right and Bob was out of it, she told her mother she was off to Alec's for the rest of the day, having prepared some food for later but she was getting tired of it and decided her mother needed cookery lessons.

"But Rose," her mother had protested before Rose had left. "It might have been enough for you but I can't keep up to Bob's standard."

"Yeah, ya can Mum, have some faith in yourself. Look, it's a new year, tell him you're trying a simpler menu, unless ya wanna admit I do it?"

"Well he did say for you to do more around the place but if you stop? What's he gonna say then?"

"Mum, the supermarket's bringing more simple meals out, just suggest ya try some? That way, I can stay out later."

"That's not fair Rose, I hardly see ya as it is. You coming in later, I'll see even less of ya. Why do you wanna stay out later?"

Rose knew if she told her mother the real reason, she'd get told she was stuck here and that she should be used to it by now. Alec was the only reason she was now putting up with it.

"Mum, I don't even eat here at teatime, I have mine at Alec's. I know ya go out to work Mum but I go to school, have to come home and tidy up then make you two something to eat. Then I disappear while you're eating, Bob doesn't even let me go back out. I want ya to talk to him for me, that when it starts staying lighter for longer, that I want to stay out longer. I'll come home first, tidy up and then go out."

"Rose, I don't know what he'll say," her mother replied, Rose thinking she would never even speak to him about it.

"Why did ya let him take over Mum?"

"Rose, I don't know what ya mean," her mother protested.

"Yes, you do Mum. Ever since ya met him, everything changed."

"For the better. I'm doing it for you sweetheart, ya know that? I want ya to have a proper family."

"You mean you wanna get married again?" Rose dared asked, finding herself not wanting to know the answer.

"I never said that. We may get around to discussing it but he won't ask for your opinion Rose, it's between us. All his friends are married with kids, he feels left out."

"Is that the reason he wanted me here for the party?" Rose asked, thinking she'd never get out at this rate.

"Well yeah, why else?" her mother replied.

Rose could think of one or two things, things she didn't want to know about.

"I'm not something to show off Mum," she reminded her.

"I never said ya were Rose. He wants to be able to join in, that's all, when his friends talk about their kids. Ya can't really blame him."

Rose disagreed, especially when she was the topic of the conversation.

"Well I'm off round to Alec's, if Bob asks, just say he never told me I couldn't go out today."

Alec was getting anxious, since it was after lunch and when he'd walked Rose home the night before, walking behind his dad, Rose all giddy about the kiss they had sneaked, she told him she'd go round when she could sneak out.

"Are you calling for Rose?" his dad asked as he put the dishes away after lunch.

"I don't know what time she's getting out, she'll have to wait and see. Can we go to my room for a while, when she gets here?" he asked, thinking he may as well take advantage and see what Rose really felt about their kiss last night.

"As long as you do as agreed?" his dad replied, knowing they'd just stay in the kitchen otherwise and they had to start being trusted.

"We will Dad. So about that holiday, can I tell her?"

"Well let me get the details first eh?" his dad smiled at his keenness. "Well okay, you can mention it and I'll get some brochures for camping sites then but maybe not where we last went with your mum? Goodness knows how she managed to persuade me to go all the way down there because she saw those cliffs in a TV programme."

"We didn't know she was getting ill Dad," Alec reminded him, waiting for Rose to knock on the kitchen door and trying not to make it look so obvious.

"I know Alec and if I'd known that well? Maybe we would have all enjoyed it a bit better? We'll maybe still go to the coast though, maybe to Ayr? Just not to that big holiday camp, they have chalets not caravans and there's no room to move around let alone cook anything. Best tell Rose not to take over the cooking though eh?" he smiled.

"I want to talk to her about that Dad, she's doing too much."

"I expect she thinks she has to, if she's covering the fact her mother's not that good a cook? She may not have said so but that has to be the reason she does it," his dad replied.

"She said something about her mother not thinking she was good enough and so she got Rose to start doing it all. Then she said Bob had told her to take more responsibility around the apartment and now she's expected to do nearly all of it. I know I do things Dad but Rose does too much."

"Well, it's up to her Alec, we can only maybe mention it to her? Does she take over when you get home from school?" his dad smiled.

Alec didn't need to say anything.

"I can't stop her Dad, I had to start making sure everything was put away before I set off to school or she used to come in and start clearing up. I can't let her do it here then go home and do it. Anyway, I think she was going to talk to her mother about staying out longer, if she can talk her into going back to cooking."

"Well I expect her mother being out at work gave her the excuse?" his dad wondered. "That's still no reason to expect Rose to do it all, we all have to manage. She maybe just does it to keep the peace?"

Alec knew the reason Rose did it all, she was scared Bob would find out her mother couldn't cook and throw them both out, then what? Rose had wanted to go back to London since he first met her but recently, she'd never mentioned it, not after they'd talked about her being his girlfriend anyway.

Maybe now, she'd accepted she was here to stay and him being her friend, it now didn't seem so bad? Well he hoped so, he didn't like the thought of her leaving. Was he just being selfish though? He jumped when he heard knocking at the kitchen door, making his dad smile.

"Well don't keep her waiting Alec, go let her in."

Rose had got dressed up warm, unlike last night and had brought her shoes to change into. She'd half expected Alec to call for her but she'd told him she had no idea what time she'd be able to get out but now, she had the rest of the day. She'd got away without Bob saying anything and even if he had, she'd have argued he'd said nothing about staying in.

"Hiya," Rose greeted Alec as he opened the door. "Geez, it's freezing out here already and the sun finally came out."

"It should maybe be warmer then?" Alec replied as he helped her with her coat as she put the bag down. "We can go to my room, if you want? I mean would you rather stay down here?" he asked nervously.

A few months ago, he'd never be waiting for a girl to come round, let alone ask if she wanted to go to his room.

"Yeah, if it's okay? I mean your dad did say we could, for an hour. Besides, you need to catch up reading me the last story you wrote. Did ya start using that writing set I bought for ya?"

"Yes, I did start using it, to write a story mainly about you."

"Me? Why would you want to do that?" Rose grinned as they went upstairs.

She'd only ever been up before to go to the bathroom and she should feel nervous but she didn't.

"Come on Rose, I thought you would be happy about it," he replied, thinking maybe it was a mistake.

"Well yeah, I just never expected it, I don't deserve it."

"Yes you do Rose. I'm not telling you what it's about though," he teased her, opening his bedroom door and glad he'd tidied up a bit. "You'll have to wait until it's finished. I have something to tell you as well."

"More rules from your dad?" Rose teased him back.

"No, should there be?" he replied, considering now they'd kissed again.

Maybe he should have a few rules of his own but he didn't stand a chance against her if she wanted more and she knew it. He knew if Rose wanted more, she would get her own way by smiling at him and doing that little sway she'd suddenly started when she wanted him to read a story to her. When exactly had she started doing that or had he asked himself that before?

Rose went to sit on a chair and Alec sat on the edge of his bed. He thought it best, since this was all new to them and not just the kissing but the whole being allowed in his room, which was different than being downstairs whether his dad was in or not.

"Wow, your bedroom's bigger than mine."

"I expect when they moved here they wanted two double bedrooms but there's an attic room," he explained. "We use it for storage."

"I had noticed the other staircase," Rose smiled. "I've always lived in flats."

"Maybe one day you'll get a house?"

"Maybe I'm destined to live on one floor? So, are ya gonna catch up on the last story?"

"I thought we'd have other things to talk about, like that kiss?"

"Oh? Maybe we should? Maybe though we should leave them, since the holidays are mostly over, I mean until we get a bit older?"

"If that's what you want Rose? Maybe just the odd one though? Did you ask about staying out longer?"

"I asked mum to talk to him, she has to face facts that she won't always have me to cover for her not being able to cook."

"Yes, she does. Seriously though, she asks a lot of you Rose. I hate the thought of you coming here and offering to help then going home and doing it. Have you ever thought that's why Bob wanted you and your mother to move in with him?"

"What do ya mean Alec?"

"Think about it Rose. He goes to work on your old estate, meets your mother who has a teenage daughter then gets you to move all this way."

"I never thought about it," she lied.

"Yes, you did Rose, face it. That's why you are unhappy, that he's using the two of you."

"Don't Alec, don't go there. Have you been talking to John again?"

"I don't need to but you do, or my dad. They can help you Rose, it worries me. Why did Bob want you at that party? I'll tell you why, to show he has a family now."

"I already know that Alec but my mum can't see it, trust me. I don't know how many more hints I can give her."

Alec just hoped she wouldn't take them when it was too late. How could he tell Rose how worried they all were about her?

"Just keep telling her maybe? Leave it for now Rose, let's have some time thinking about something else?"

"Yeah? Such as?" she teased him.

"I think you already know Rose. Have you not noticed?" he asked as he leaned back on his arms.

"Don't know what ya mean Alec. Oh, apart from holding hands and walking arm in arm then maybe kissing each other's cheeks? Have I forgotten anything?" she teased him.

"Yes, nudging me all the time and the way you sway when you want something."

"Do I? Does it work?" she laughed.

"You know it does. Why else do you keep doing it? Rose, I would do anything for you, don't you know that?"

"Really? You don't say anything Alec."

"Do I have to? Rose, it worries me you take on too much, when you come round, we don't expect you to help."

"It's what I've always done Alec, it's what my mum taught me when we went to see friends or family. I can't help it."

"Then when you come around here, expect me to remind you to stop. I mean it Rose. If you can stay out longer, we can do our homework, have our tea then come up here for an hour. When it gets warmer, we can stay out longer. What do you think?"

"Sounds like ya have everything planned then? Still gonna have time to write your stories?"

"Yes, I'll have time for them. Afraid I'll stop writing them about you?" he teased her.

"I don't deserve for them to be written about me Alec."

He was now wishing she'd come and sit next to him. She'd either kiss his cheek or nudge him, maybe both? Was he starting to like it a bit too much? He should get John to tell him what else to expect, he'd not really thought about it but Rose was doing more and more every day. There was little chance she would stop any time soon, not that he'd even want her to.

"I had something to tell you anyway, not just about my stories. Dad told me we may go on holiday this year."

"Oh. Well I don't expect Bob will want to go anywhere, except to some tacky resort in Benidorm like my mother watches on TV, honestly, I don't know how she can stand watching stuff like that. Anyway, wow. So when's that? What am I gonna do while you're gone?"

He saw the look on her face.

"Rose, don't worry about that," he started to tell her.

"We spent the other holiday together, what am I gonna do on my own?"

"Rose, let me finish? Dad said you can come with us, if you want?"

Rose got up and went to sit next to him, which he'd been hoping she would do, flinging her arms around his neck, something else he'd not known her to do before now.

"Really? Well, what kind of holiday? I've not got a passport."

"You won't need one Rose, it's only a camping trip, well a caravan maybe, so dad mentioned. He's going to get some leaflets to look at, maybe near the coast?"

"Yeah, that's great. I just thought there were only the two of ya going? Alec, you're just gettin' over losing your mother, is that why ya didn't go anywhere this year?"

"Did I tell you that?" he asked her.

"You might have mentioned it. Didn't ya say ya went down south somewhere, when you were asking me if I'd been there?"

"I may have done. Mum saw these cliffs and a beach on a TV show and wanted to visit, dad finally gave in and agreed. Rose, we didn't know mum was getting sick then."

"Sorry. Well maybe with not going away last year, it'll cheer you both up? It's something to look forward to."

"Yes, as long as you can go? Do you think Bob will let you?"

"Well, I've got plenty of time to work on it," she smiled, rubbing her other hand on his arm, something else that was new.

Was she ever going to stop coming out with things? Did he want her to?

"If I ask now, he'll have time to come up with excuses to not let me go and even change his mind if he says yes now. If I leave it until the week before I might have a better chance?"

Without realizing, Alec took her other hand.

"That may be the best thing to do then? My dad will book it anyway but I won't want to go without you."

"Aw, ya can't let me not going stop ya but I'll feel the same, if I can't go. I might come up with a way before then?"

"What sort of way? Rose, you have to be careful you know?"

"Yeah, I know Alec. What if I can get my mum to suggest they take a holiday at the same time? I mean when your dad gets a date? They go off together and I'll say I don't want to go, I'll be old enough then to stay on my own or maybe say I'll stay at your aunt's or something?"

Alec wondered how she kept coming up with all these ideas? He would never have thought of that and she thought he was more clever than she was.

"That's a good idea Rose, do you think he'll fall for it?"

"I'll let my mum in on it though, it's not been her stopping me doing things Alec and I always blamed her. I'm sure she'll be able to talk him into it, just as long as he doesn't insist I go with them?"

"Then tell him you want to go with us?" Alec suggested.

"Alec, that's the whole point of not telling him," Rose smiled, giving him a nudge. "So, will we get told when your dad's booked it or will he ask where you want to go?"

"You can maybe choose as well Rose. Dad said we'll get a caravan with a separate bedroom for you and we'll sleep in the lounge. There might be some caravans with two bedrooms though? It doesn't matter if not, last time, there was a tiny area that was curtained off and I slept on the seating. I wish I could remember the name of the place we went to."

"Maybe ya don't want to remember Alec?" she asked him, stroking his arm again. "If it brings back memories of your mum?"

"Dad said she would have liked you Rose," he smiled.

"Me? Well I like your family Alec, they make me feel like I'm part of it. I know one thing."

"What's that?" he wanted to know, seeing she didn't want to let go of his hand for some reason and hoping they wouldn't get reminded how long they'd been in his room, since Rose had a habit of making him forget the time.

"Well last year, things were going okay then I got dragged up here without any warning. At least I won't have that this year?"

"I suppose that's one good thing then? I lost my mum last year, now I have you as my friend."

"Alec, I'm no compensation for you losing your mum," she reminded him.

"It's not as bad as before I met you though. This year's not going to be so bad after all."

"No Alec, it's not, is it?" she asked, suddenly leaning her head on his shoulder, Alec liking all these new things she was coming out with.

Then without warning, she reached to kiss his cheek.

"We'll have each other this year Rose."

"Yeah, we will, won't we? Do ya know what?"

He turned to kiss her cheek back. "What Rose?"

"I bet this year's gonna be great? We'll have all the holidays together, we can go swimming and down to the river as well as the park and you continue writing your stories. I know I have school work to catch up on but I will, with you helping me."

She realized all of a sudden that last year, she had nothing special to look forward to, now she had. Neither had Alec, he'd thought his mother was getting ill this time last year though she'd never admitted it and he'd had a shock when it was worse than they'd thought.

"Yes Rose, I never had anything either. Now I have a lot of things to look forward to, now you're here."

"Aw, ya'd still have been friends with Jamie if I'd not come here."

"Would I, if you are right about him? I should have seen all the signs Rose but you did."

"You would have realized Alec, if he started doing things you weren't happy about?"

"That's just it Rose, I never saw anything, even when he was trying to get me to go talk to you in the library. He was trying to see if I was interested in girls but not for the reason I thought."

"I could still be wrong?" she wondered, trying to put her fingers through his.

"No Rose, I don't think you are. Anyway, there's no point in going on about it. Rose, after our birthdays, we'll be old enough so we don't have to deny that you're my girlfriend."

"Yeah, I know Alec. If we keep saying anything now, people will think we're too young, won't they?"

He saw what she was trying to do with her fingers and get them between his so he moved them to make it easier. He'd felt before when they were holding hands that they just seemed to fit together and now, she had a smile on her face as he wrapped his longer fingers around hers.

"Let them think what they like Rose but we'll just keep it to ourselves, if you want?"

"Well, your dad and John know and I think your aunt's a bit suspicious?" she teased him.

"Well apart from them? So are we agreed? That we act like it when we are on our own?"

"Well yeah. Do ya wanna look it up in the library, what's involved?" she grinned.

"Do we need to?"

"Maybe we should make it up as we go along?" she suggested, feeling his grip tighten on her hand.

"I think you are already making it up Rose," he teased her.

"Then it's just the beginning Alec. You have no idea how much of an imagination I have."

"I bet you have, Rose Tyler," he smiled back as she leaned on him again. "We had better go downstairs before my dad calls us, it won't look good the first time we're allowed up here."

"Nope, it wouldn't. Yeah, I think we're gonna have a real good year, don't you?" she asked, trying to get him to turn as she went for his cheek.

He did and she went for a peck on the lips and he couldn't have agreed more.