Marion and Michael flew home the following day, and Kenny the day after.

Colin stayed on in Vegas for another week, having made "connections" while "networking" around various bars and gaming areas. When he finally left, he was laden with all manner of tacky tat from the world's biggest souvenir store including trick dice, marked cards, poker sets, pyramid snow globes and - oddly - poseable Jesus action figures with "realistic gliding action".

Spike and Lynda, meanwhile, embarked on a two week honeymoon, driving up to the Grand Canyon and staying in a cosy lodge metres from the North Rim (which would have been dangerous at other points in their relationship) before heading up to a lakeside chalet at Bass Lake, California (likewise) and finally San Francisco before heading back to Los Angeles.

Although the days were peppered with their usual bickering and minor disagreements about in-car entertainment, the heat had definitely mellowed.

Spike noticed the difference in his wife when she allowed him to row them about on Bass Lake without offering any instructions like, "You're doing it wrong."

Lynda noticed the difference in her husband when they toured Alcatraz and he didn't make any references to her finding possible employment there in a past life.

They had arrived back at the Santa Monica townhouse. Too tired to climb the stairs, they dumped their bags in the middle of the floor, kicked off their shoes and were relaxing on the balcony with glasses of wine late in the afternoon.

"It surprises me," said Lynda, after a long period of comfortable silence, "that nothing untoward happened during the ceremony."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, face it, Thomson - we've never really enjoyed smooth sailing. It just seems like it was all too easy. I half expected your mother to come bursting in, waving an injunction to stop proceedings."

"That thought crossed my mind as well," admitted Spike. "I even called her office in London to make sure she was there."

"What's she going to say, do you think?"

"Don't know, don't care," replied Spike, stretching lazily. "Too late for her to start showing an interest, as far as I'm concerned. She should just focus on her career, the way she always has. She should stick to what she's good at. Which is not mothering. Or wife . . . ing."

"She didn't change her name when she married your father, did she?" Lynda asked.

"Nope," Spike replied. "Said it was old-fashioned and sexist and would have a negative impact on her career. She was always a Ms too - never a Mrs. I think she thought people wouldn't be as intimidated by her if they knew she was married. Didn't even have a photo of me on her desk. Anything to keep that hardcore ball-busting image. I guess maybe she thought she had something to prove to the Americans when she first arrived and then it just got to be a habit. Why?"

Lynda was chewing her lip thoughtfully. "I was wondering what to do about my name."

"Oh yeah?" Spike forced a casual tone and decided not to mention he had presumed she would keep Day for the same reasons.

"I like Day," said Lynda, tracing her finger around the rim of her glass. "It's short and to the point."

"Just like you," Spike couldn't resist.

"And I've had it all this time," Lynda continued after an indulgent eye-roll. "But I think . . . I think I'd like to show commitment to you. And to our marriage."

"Really?" Spike didn't do that good a job of hiding his surprise.

"Well, it's not like I'm fighting the patriarchy by keeping my father's name over yours," she said, smiling.

"Right," Spike feigned understanding.

"Do you think Day-Thomson sounds pretentious?" she asked.

Spike shrugged. "It's better than Fossington-Smythe-Hunter or some of those crazy names you English go in for."

"Mmmm," Lynda took a sip. "I'm not in love with it, myself."

"So what then? Amalgamations? We could be the Thomays or the Daysons . . . or anagrams, you're good at those . . ."

Lynda's quick brain mentally reshuffled the letters.

"Oh dear! I don't know about that unless you want to be known as Mr and Mrs Sodomy."

Spike blanched. "Maybe not such a good idea."

"How about just Thomson?" she said. "I mean, if we have kids, it really will be the easiest."

"I couldn't agree more . . . Mrs Thomson."

"I'll have to practice responding to that. And a new signature."

Whatever smart remark Spike was about to make about practicing was interrupted by the doorbell.

"Arrghhgh," he groaned as he hauled himself up out of the chair. "I bet that's AT and T or someone wanting me to switch my cable." He looked at his watch. "Five o'clock, they've got a nerve." The doorbell sounded again. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

He opened the door. A girl of about sixteen stood with her finger poised above the bell.

"Aha! Don't tell me. Girl Scout cookies," said Spike. "I'll take two boxes."

"I'm not selling anything," said the girl. "I'm looking for James Thomson."

"Oh. Well, you found him."

"He's here? Great, can I see him please?"

"I mean, you found him here. On the other side of this door," explained Spike. "I'm James Thomson."

The girl looked confused. "But you can't be."

"I'm pretty sure I am," replied Spike pleasantly. "At least, that's what it says on my birth certificate."

"No, I mean - you're not old enough."

"There's an age requirement to be called James Thomson?"

"Spike, don't be a prat," said Lynda, who had come in from the balcony. "Isn't it obvious? She's looking for your dad."

"Your dad?" The girl looked from one to the other.

"Yeah, James Thomson senior."

"James Thomson senior is your dad?" she repeated.

"Yeah," replied Spike. "Well, I should say, he was."


Spike and Lynda exchanged glances.

"Maybe you should come in and sit down," said Lynda as gently as possible.

"And who are you, anyway?" asked Spike.

The girl stuck out her hand. "I'm Abby Marshall. And if James Thomson senior is your father, then I'm your half-sister."


Stay tuned for the next installment . . . "So Much For The Afterglow"