It was a cold and dreary morning when Lizzie found herself opening up the shop alone, and she shivered despite the warm winters jacket she had on as she slotted the spare key into the lock.
Oppressive dark, grey clouds still lingered in the skies and drifted high above her head as the drizzle pelted her relentlessly, soaking her through. She had to squint slightly in order to see what she was doing.
She'd received a phone call from Marie very early that morning, and the sound of her friend and colleague's slightly flustered voice had sent a chill through Lizzie's entire body. Marie had refused to say what it was which had got her so alarmed, although Lizzie had promised to go in early – before the start of her shift – to open up the shop and get things ready for the day - which had obviously relieved Marie, who'd appeared immediately much calmer, and promised to join her later.
It was right bang in the middle of the school summer holiday's which had meant finding somebody to take care of Frankie for a few extra hours as her mother was in the city visiting friends for a few weeks. Since Davie's death Nell hadn't felt the need to spend as much time with her daughter and grandson – confident in the knowledge that whenever she returned it wouldn't be to find that Lizzie had once again run off with an abusive husband – and the previous few months had seen her living something of a more conventional retirement, doing a little more of the things she wanted to do.
Catriona's mother – Frankie's best friend from school, who he'd been due to spend the afternoon with anyway – had offered to take him for a few extra hours however, and Lizzie had dropped her son off on her way to open up the shop.
As she finally got the door open – just as the heavens above her opened and the thin sheen of light rain turned into a torrential downpour – she made her way into the back room to find a spare towel in order to dry off, before turning on the deep fat fryer ready to prepare and cook the fish and chips for the days lunch. Having done that she stacked the counter with the tiny sachets of tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, brown sauce, salt, and vinegar, as well as making sure that they had a respectable supply of both wooden and plastic folks, and she refilled the fridge with fruit aid and coco-cola before sitting back to wait for Marie to arrive.
As she rested her head in her hands over the counter top her mind began to wonder and the thought of Marie's brother David popped into her mind, his smiling face looking back at her from behind her closed eyelids. Lizzie hadn't quite believed it when Marie had told her that the man she had recommended to her to play Frankie's father had been her brother… it had all seemed almost too good to be true in Lizzie's mind, and once she'd discovered that her son had known all along that David had not been his real father she'd started to wonder if it was all meant to be… Frankie had known the truth the whole time and yet had accepted him anyway, he'd put his complete trust in him, and over the course of just one afternoon Lizzie had learnt to trust him too.
David had been kind hearted, and warm, and had managed to make her smile… something which no man had been able to do since she'd left Davie to start a new life in safety with her son. He'd shown a genuine interest in her as a person, and compassion for what she and Frankie had been through at the hands of her abusive ex-husband. He'd proven to her that he was a good man when he'd handed back the two envelopes of money she'd given him in payment for the role he'd played in her ridiculous charade – both still intact and every note accounted for – and after the first letter in which Frankie had revealed the truth, about what he'd always known about his real father, he'd continued to write to him and had even continued to call him dad. Lizzie too had found herself writing the occasional letter and missed David incredibly when she didn't hear back from him for a few weeks. She longed for him and would have given almost anything to wind back the clock to that one perfect day they'd spent together.
Just then however she was startled out of her trance when she caught a glimpse of the clock on the opposite wall and realised that she'd been daydreaming for almost an hour, and there was still no sign of Marie. She was just beginning to grow concerned and wonder where she might have got to when she heard a knock upon the door and looked up to see Marie staring in at her, waiting to be let in.
As Lizzie made her way over to open the door for her friend she noticed that there were tears mingled with the rain soaking her friend's cheeks however, and she quickly unbolted the door before throwing it aside. Marie immediately reached out to embrace her, resting her head on Lizzie's warm shoulder.
"Marie, what is it?" Lizzie asked, alarmed.
"It's David." Marie explained. "I received a phone call this morning. Apparently he's suffered acute appendicitis, they didn't get the chance to ring me sooner cause apparently it ruptured and they had to rush him into emergency surgery, but he's making steady progress and needs somewhere to stay whilst he recovers."
Marie held Lizzie out in front of her, at arm's length, and she could see for the first time that she was smiling.
"He's coming home Lizzie." Marie explained as Lizzie's heart soared. "David's coming home."