Mum's the word
It couldn't be. Could it?
Geoff stood in the very long shadows created by the gas pumps from Emma's garage, which blocked the rising sun. He stared at the woman stepping out of the bus, wearing a big hat. Her dress was much too formal for this town and she carried a purse that shouted: please rob me!
He was early. He had been on his way to the base to start his shift in about 15 minutes. The early shift. The one that usually meant no soul was awake yet. On a day like today promised to be, that walk was very nice. Even better today, because his mood could not possibly have been better with all the plans he had made for this afternoon.
No one ever arrives on the early bus.
And yet. Here she was. The woman, who was now standing next to the bus, looking seemingly lost, while the bus driver got out her luggage, looked a lot like *her*. Geoff wrecked his brain, trying to think if maybe he had missed a letter or a message on his phone. He could not remember any mention of a visit. Still.
"Mum?", he kind of mumbled, "is that you?"
The woman looked around at the sound, lifted her free hand to block the low sunlight and saw him. She started waving wildly, her purse flying from left to right.
"Geoffrey! Am I glad to see you!"
Geoff put a smile on his face and began walking towards her.
"Mum!", he said, slightly more enthusiastic. "What are you doing here? And why did you take the bus? Why didn't you just fly in?"
As he reached her, she threw the purse down and opened her arms for a hug. Geoff put his arms around her and hugged her briefly. Then he pulled out of the embrace and took her by the shoulders. Ignoring the fact that she wasn't answering his questions he said:
"Let me look at you, mum, I haven't seen you in ages!"
He looked at her face and smiled, trying to hide the fact that he was not overly happy with her being here. Of course he loved his mum, but she could hardly have picked a worse day to visit. Today, after all, was the day he was supposed to be taking Kate out on a picnic. Things had finally gotten to a point where they could actually enjoy each other's company without fighting every five minutes. It was their first picnic alone together. He had been looking forward to this day for a long time now. Well, this particular day only since the day before yesterday of course.
How am I going to tell Kate I won't be able to make it? Or why?
His mother pulled back and picked up her purse.
"So, what are you doing up so early? I had hoped to surprise you at home when you got home from work, but a bus later would not have gotten me here until the evening. You don't have any plans, do you? We have got to catch up! Oh dear, you look good. I haven't seen you in a long time. Not since..."
Suddenly she fell silent. Geoff's smile dropped from his face.
"Not since the funeral, mum. You can say it."
Somehow, the remark had made her realize she was rambling.
"No. I am keeping you. I guess you have an early shift today? I thought you told me you only had afternoon shifts this week. I'm sorry."
She looked around, apparently looking for something. Geoff silently sighed.
"You can stay at my place, mum. I'll take you and call the base I'll be late."
"Are you sure that's ok? I mean, I don't want to keep you from your job."
"Yes, mum, that's ok. This is not Sydney. People are very easy-going."
He picked up her luggage and started back toward his house. Suddenly he turned around.
"You know, mum, it's quite a walk back to my place. Could easily be 20 minutes. Are you up for that? I could see if Vic and Nance are up. Maybe you can stay there until I get off work. Or until I can find someone who can drive you there. I wish I had known you were coming. I would have driven here today."
"It's ok, darling, I may be getting old, but I can still walk."
Damn. It would have been easier to contact Kate without mum around.
"Well, ok, if you're sure."
Putting the smile back on his face he turned around once more and started walking again, then, belatedly realizing it must look like he was running away from her, he waited until she walked beside him before he carried on.
Silently they walked on for a couple of minutes.
Geoff was deep in thought. He needed to reach Kate. She would be coming back from an overnight clinic-run today and he was not sure he would see her before she went to the river, where they had agreed to meet. He would have to find time to warn her. But with it being sort of a date, she hadn't wanted anyone to know about it, so he could not just leave her a message through the radio or Chris. He would have to find an excuse to find her at the hospital when they got back from the clinic run.
"Penny for your thoughts", his mother said.
"Ehm. Nothing. Just mentally re-arranging my plans for today to fit you in. Nothing big."
I am *not* telling her about Kate. Last time I mentioned Kate she went mad. She is not ready for me to move on. I'm not even sure I am. But Kate is mine until we're sure.
And of course, as all mothers seem to have a sixth sense for these things, the next thing she said had him silently cursing.
"You are not dating that woman, what's her name, are you?"
He repositioned the bags on his shoulders and shook his head to cover the sudden blush that fled over his face.
"Who do you mean, mum? I'm not dating anyone."
Please, don't let her have seen me blush.
"That woman. The country girl. That nurse. You know. The one you are always going on about."
Too late now to do anything about it.
"Oh, you mean Kate? She's ok. But no, I'm not dating her, mum."
"I'd like to meet her."
"I'd like to meet her."
"Why? I mean... you might. She is due back from a clinic run later today if I recall correctly. As are my other colleagues. I will take you to meet them all."
"I meant her privately."
Panic started to flow through his body.
"Not that I don't want to meet your colleagues", she added as an afterthought.
"Ehm. Ok, I think I can arrange that. If she'd like."
His hands were now seriously sweating and he picked up the pace.
"Come on, mum, we're almost there."
As he walked on his brain kept repeating the last thing she had said.
Privately. Privately. Privately. Why? Why would she want to meet Kate privately?
As they arrived at his house, he let her in, showed her the guestroom and called the base to let them know he'd be late.
"Will you be ok here, mum? I have to go to work now."
"I'll be fine, Geoff, go ahead. I will manage. I'll cook you dinner. Can I use whatever's in the fridge? Or should I go shop? I'm assuming that's in town as well?"
"Yes, it's in town, but you can use whatever's in there. There should be plenty. I'll see you later."
And, as an afterthought: "It's good to see you."
He got in the car and drove quickly to the base.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kate arrived at the hospital, where she quickly made her rounds before going to the locker-room, where she would change for her date with Geoff.
Wow. That sounds weird. Date. Let's call it... ehm... meeting? Picnic with a friend?
She wouldn't dress up too nicely, as people might suspect she had a date, ehm... meeting. And she was not ready for anyone to know yet. She wasn't quite sure she even wanted a relationship. George had definitely succeeded in having her push the men out of her life.
But Geoff's not George. He's kind and when he looks at me, those eyes make my knees go shaky. And my stomach fills with butterflies. Who am I kidding. I like him. A lot! That kiss he gave me the other day. I mean... wow! I just HAD to run. I would have let him have me right then and there on the floor. And I can't do that. It's not me. I can't be so... so... spontaneous. Can I?
She finished putting her dress on and turned around in front of the full length mirror, admiring her blue dress. It was a very simple cut, but she had noticed Geoff almost drooling over it the last time she had worn it. Then again... maybe it was just the smile that came with it, whenever she thought of Geoff. Of course she would not let HIM see her smile. She'd been pretending she didn't like him. To be truthful, he made her feel so self-conscious that the only way she knew how to save face and not be found out, was to put him down. She knew it hurt him.
It hurts me too. But I just can't admit it. Not yet.
Just as she was checking out and saying her goodbyes to the nurse that would take over, she saw the object of her thoughts walk in the front door. She managed a quick smile his way and pretended she was busy talking to the nurse about a patient.
"Oh! And Mr. Mundery will need an extra pair of blankets as he keeps messing them up. Make sure you check on him often."
The nurse looked at her strangely, as it did not match anything she had said before.
Kate turned to walk away, but found Geoff blocking her way.
"Hello Kate, can I speak with you for a minute? I want to ask you something about ehm... that patient you saw yesterday... you know who."
As he said this, he pulled her around the corner, out of sight - and hopefully hearing - from the nurses-station. He held her by the shoulders.
"Kate", he said. "Glad I caught you."
Then he smiled.
"Wow, you look great."
"Thank you." Kate answered and smiled back.
Geoff was silent, while he stared at her in that dress that made him want to jump her right at that moment.
"Geoff?" Kate asked. "Why did you want to talk to me? Couldn't it wait until later?"
Geoff awoke from his stare and slightly blushed.
His face darkened.
"Ehm. No, that's what I came to tell you. My mum's here. I can't make it."
"Your mum's here?! In Coopers Crossing? Why?"
"I don't know. All she said was that she wanted to talk to you. In private. I haven't told her about us, but I might have mentioned you in some phone calls to her, sorry."
Some? All!... but she doesn't need to know that.
Kate's shoulders slumped.
"Oh. Well. I guess we'll reschedule the picnic? And if you want, I can visit her and talk to her. Is she staying at your house?"
"I'm really sorry, Kate. I had planned this whole afternoon. My mum's ok, but I'd much rather spend it with you."
"I was looking forward to our picnic as well", Kate said with a sigh. "But I guess that's gonna have to wait."
Geoff let go of her and watched her walk away. Then he followed her out and went back to the base to work the remainder of his shift.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kate stood on Geoff's porch and hesitated. What did she know about this woman?
Nothing. I didn't even know she was alive until Geoff told me she was here earlier. I really don't know Geoff at all. Is his father still alive? Why is his mother alone here? Are they divorced? Does he have siblings? Well... time to find out I guess.
She got up her nerves, put a smile on her face and knocked on the door.
That sort of has a nice ring to it. Mrs. Standish. Mrs. Kate Standish. No. People would only get confused. Kate Wellings. Mrs. Geoff Standish. That sounded better.
What am I thinking?! I'm here to talk to his mother!
Just as she was about to knock again, the door opened and Mrs. Standish looked her up and down.
"You must be Kate. Come in."
No smile, no pleasantries. Just formality. Weird. Must be the Sydney-way.
"Yes, I am. You are Geoff's mother, right?", she asked as she entered the house.
"Yes. Please sit down."
She led Kate to the living room and pointed at the couch. Kate sat down and nervously tried to iron her dress with her hands. Mrs. Standish sat down across from her on a chair. She said nothing. Silence filled the room.
Why does this feel like I'm visiting my first boyfriend's parents?
"Ehm, you wanted to talk to me?", Kate ventured.
The silence made her even more nervous.
Just as Kate thought she couldn't take it anymore, Mrs. Standish spoke.
"Do you want some tea?"
Not what I expected.
"Ehm, yes please, Mrs. Standish."
Mrs. Standish got up and went into the kitchen to make some tea. All the while Kate sat on the couch, thinking about what this woman could possibly want from her.
What exactly does she know about me? How much has Geoff told? Why does she want to speak with me? And why doesn't she just say whatever's on her mind?
Her eyes started drifting through the room and her eyes fell on a box with pictures that was on the table. Curious, she picked one up. It was a picture of Geoff as a young boy. She smiled.
He was cute. Heck, he is still cute.
Picking up another photo, she saw 3 boys playing in the sand on a beach somewhere. One of them was Geoff. The other two did look a lot like him, though.
So. He has brothers. At least two. Why doesn't he ever tell me about these things? What's so weird about having a family?
The next picture was a family portrait. His father was dressed in army-clothes.
So. His father served in the army. I am learning more about him in five minutes here then he has ever told me.
Then her eye fell on a picture that looked much more recent, as the colors had not faded at all. She picked it up and almost instantly dropped it again. It was a picture of her, smiling at the camera. In the dress she was currently wearing. She had forgotten he had taken her picture the last time they were at a fundraiser for the RFDS.
WHY was it in a box with photos he obviously cared for? More importantly. Had Mrs. Standish seen it?
At that moment Mrs. Standish reappeared from the kitchen, holding a tray with cups and a thermos with tea.
"I couldn't find the teapot", she apologized.
She set the tray down and poured tea in both cups. Then she offered one to Kate, who took it.
Picking up the other cup, Mrs. Standish sat down again. Then she noticed the pictures Kate had been looking at.
"Right", she sighed. "Let's get this over with."
She put down her cup of tea and sat up straight.
"You must wonder why I wanted to speak to you", she half asked-half said.
Kate nodded and took a careful sip of her tea.
"Well," Mrs. Standish continued, "let me start at the beginning."
Kate put her tea down and steeled herself for whatever was about to come.
"As you probably know, Geoff lost his wife a couple of years ago. She was like a daughter to me and when she died, I was angry. I did something bad. I knew Geoff thought he could have saved her and I made sure he knew I felt the same way. I blamed him for her death. When he moved to Coopers Crossing, I didn't expect to ever hear from him again, but about a year ago, he called me. Letting me know he thought he was getting over her. He still thinks he could have saved her, but I no longer think it would have made a difference. She was just too sick. So I told him I had been wrong in letting him take the blame. I don't like the fact that he's getting over her, but I don't blame him anymore. We cleared things up and he started this ritual where he calls me on a weekly basis to let me know what's going on with him."
"And to check up on me, I guess", she added with a smile. "It's in his nature to care."
She took a sip of her tea as Kate processed the information.
"A couple of months ago, he started mentioning you. I mean, he always mentioned his colleagues and what they were up to, but I could tell there was something different in the way he spoke about you. Not that he ever said anything inappropriate or personal. It's more in the WAY he said it. His voice goes soft and sometimes he seems to dream away for a second. He doesn't know he does this of course."
Mrs. Standish took another sip. Kate didn't know what to make of this and tried to keep her face from showing any emotions. When she tried to take a sip of her tea, however, her hands were slightly trembling. So she quickly put the tea back down and made her hands rest on her knees, while she nodded at Mrs. Standish to continue.
"I got the feeling that you're the reason he's getting over her. It made me angry. It made me hate you, even though I had never met you. So when he started mentioning you more and more, I figured it was time I met you, before it was too late. I wanted to scare you off, so he wouldn't forget his wife. "
Kate's face turned red.
"Scare me off?! What right do you think you have to interfere with my life?! And what makes you think there is even something going on with me and Geoff?"
Mrs. Standish bent over the table and picked up the picture of Kate in the blue dress.
"This picture. And this picture is what made me change my mind."
"What do you mean, change your mind?" Kate asked, still furious.
"It made me realize I had no right to interfere. It stopped me from making another big mistake, which could have cost me my son forever. This picture made it all clear. You may not have realized it yet, or you may deny it, but you are meant to be with my son. You make him happy. And from the look of your look on this picture, he makes you happy. As much as you might want to, that is not something you can hide. It's even in your reaction right now, getting all angry with me, for wanting to keep you away from him."
Kate leaned back on the couch and thought things over.
Is she right? I DO like him. And he seems to like me. A lot.
A blush crept over her face as she remembered the kiss again.
Those lips. Those hungry lips. Hungry for her. Stop it! You're sitting here with his mother!
Mrs. Standish pretended not to notice the blush and finished her tea.
"I'll let you think about it for a while. But please know you have my blessing."
She smiled and walked into the kitchen, leaving Kate to ponder the things she had said.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Geoff arrived home from work to find Kate, still sitting on his couch. His mother was nowhere to be seen.
"Kate? What are you doing here? Where's my mum?"
Kate looked up. She smiled softly and patted the seat next to her.
"Sit down, please."
Geoff felt a bit awkward, but did as she asked. He turned so he could face her.
"What's wrong, Kate?"
"Nothing's wrong, Geoff. Your mom and I had a talk."
"Yes, I know. What did she say?"
"Let's just say she came here for a reason and found the reason did not exist anymore."
Geoff did not understand.
Kate took a deep breath, then, she suddenly moved in and kissed Geoff. Geoff was taken by surprise, but his body had no trouble adjusting and soon he kissed her back. After a short moment however, his mind started working again.
He pulled back abruptly. Kate looked hurt.
"My mum!", he whispered, "Where is she? She doesn't know about us. Nor do I want her to find out this way."
"Your mum is why there IS an us. She made me see I don't need to hesitate anymore. I love you Geoff. I have for a long time."
Geoff's jaw dropped open and his eyes went wide.
"You what? You LOVE me?"
As Kate nodded with a big smile, his own smile grew to match the proportions of his nose.
"Really?" he asked.
"Yes, Geoff. Really", she smiled.
Oh my God... now I have to say it too. I'm not sure I can.
Geoff started panicking.
Kate, seeing the panic on his face, pulled him towards her and kissed him again.
And suddenly it seemed the easiest thing in the world to say.
"I love you, Kate. I really do."
"I know. Now shut up and kiss me!" she replied with a grin, before pulling him closer again. "Your mother won't stay in the kitchen forever."
"She's in the kitchen?!", Geoff asked before giving in and kissing Kate like he had never done before.
Hell, he had only really kissed her once before.
"Not anymore, darling", came a voice from the kitchen door.
Geoff and Kate jumped up, feeling caught in the act, even though they were only kissing. Both were flushed and smiling like idiots.
"Well... not quite what I had planned when I decided to come here, but it works for me", Mrs. Standish grinned.
Geoff turned to Kate and whispered in her ear.
"Someday, you are going to have to tell me just what she said."
Kate just smiled. Then she gave him a quick kiss on the lips.
"I have to go now, but I am counting on that picnic tomorrow. Same time, same place?"
Geoff nodded. He didn't want her to leave, but he could hardly leave his mum alone, when she had obviously been very helpful in deciding to pay him a visit.
As Kate walked past Mrs. Standish, she whispered something in her ear, while looking at Geoff.
"He will never forget. I won't let him."
She closed the door behind her, as she left both Geoff and Mrs. Standish with a smile on their lips.