Leaving the Nest

AKA: Friends and Neighbours

Mr. Humphries was folding scarves and Mr. Lucas was pricing Y-fronts. The morning bell had just rung and Mr. Grainger was busy serving a customer for a full suit. The two juniors took the opportunity to engage in a little light gossip between themselves.

"Last night me Mum was driving me mad!" Mr. Humphries complained to Mr. Lucas.

"What'd she do now?"

"Well, she was supposed to go to bingo; you know how she does every Tuesday. I was planning to have a few friends over for dinner and before I could even get my Yorkshires in the oven, she's back."

"Did she forget her bingo cards?"

"No! She said the bingo caller was about half daft and she wasn't having it. And she had some sort of row with the lady who sits next to her, Mr. Ellsworth. So she came home and I had to call everyone and cancel."

"I bet that put a damper in your plans. Blimey! My mum's been getting up my nose lately as well. I came home at half past eleven with this big bird I picked up at the club and there was Mum standing at the door, foot tapping asking me 'and just where d'you think you're going, young man?' I felt like I was still in school!" Mr. Lucas exclaimed.

"I've been thinking of moving out, but I can't afford to, not on me own at least," Mr. Humphries explained.

"Maybe we could afford it if we moved in together," Mr. Lucas suggested, "We could ask Mrs. Peacock if her landlord has any flats to let."

"If you don't mind living in East End. It's a far cry from High Gate; not exactly des-res. But I'm game if you are," Mr. Humphries stated.

"Ring her and ask. I haven't heard her complain about the neighborhood. The pub is within walking distance."

Mr. Grainger finished his sale and turned to his juniors, "Mr. Humphries! Mr. Lucas! You've been having a chin wag since the bell. If you would do more work and less talking, you would be almost finished with that trolley load of goods awaiting your attention in the stockroom! Now get to work!"

Mr. Lucas rolled his eyes at Mr. Humphries, "I'll call Mrs. Peacock during our elevenses."

"Hello?" Betty answered the telephone, removing one earring.

"Betty, dear, Mr. Humphries here."

"Oh, yes, Mr. Humphries! How are you, Love?" she bubbled.

"I'm fine. Hey up! Do you think your landlord might have an empty flat to let?"

"You thinking of moving?" she asked, twirling the phone cord round her fingers.

"Yes, dear. Mr. Lucas and myself are looking to finally grow up and leave the nest!"

"It's about time!' she joked, "Well, I could just give you his number and you could ask him yourself."

"Thank you, Love!"

Stephen arrived home to find Betty entertaining Mr. Humphries and Mr. Lucas. Stephanie sat on Uncle Dickie's lap and Katherine perched on Uncle Claybourne's lap. The adults drank tea.

Betty sprang up and rushed to her husband as he removed his shoes and slipped into his house shoes. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him; Stephen's eyes slid closed and his mouth turned up at the corners.

"You look tired, dear. Your eyes are all puffy," she murmured.

"I am tired. It was a long day. I see we have company."

Stephanie and Katherine hopped off their roosts and skittered over to their Daddy.

"Daddy! Uncle Clay and Uncle Dickie are here!"

"I see! Good evening, gentlemen! To what do we owe this visit?" Stephen greeted them.

"Good evening, Stephen," Mr. Lucas facetiously quipped.

"Stephen, they're moving in!"

Stephen's eyebrows shot up.

"It would have been nice if someone would have consulted me! A man comes home to find two men in his lounge, drinking his tea before he's had any, and then his wife announces that they're moving in!"

"No, you daft man! They're getting their own place! They're moving in to Number 4, across from your old flat. It's two up , two down, and furnished."

"Oh, I see," he said, breathing a sigh of relief.

"Daddy, we'll get to see Uncle Clay and Uncle Dickie all the time!" Katherine gushed excitedly.

Stephen hoisted her and kissed her cheeks. She clapped her little hands against his face and then she slid down and scampered back to Mr. Humphries.

Stephen smiled at Stephanie and bowed slightly, "Madam."

She threw her arms around his legs and he lifted her up and kissed her cheeks.

"I'll make a fresh pot of tea, Stephen. You get your shower and I'll have it ready," she turned to Mr. Lucas and Mr. Humphries, "Would you like to stay for dinner?"

"It's pee-tayta pie night!" Katherine squealed, "Mummy makes the best pee-tayta pie!"

They all laughed. Stephen excused himself and headed upstairs for his evening ablutions.

"We're going to have to be leaving, sweetie," Mr. Humphries said apologetically, "But don't fret. We're going to be living five doors down and we'll be able to stay for potato pie and anything else Mummy cooks up!"

"Yay!" the girls cheered.

Betty walked them to the door.

"Thank you for the tea, Betty Baby!" Mr. Humphries chuckled.

"Yes, Betty love, thank you for the tea!"

Stephanie and Katherine joined their mother at the front door.

Mr. Lucas and Mr. Humphries crouched down and the girls showered them with kisses.

"G'night girls!" Mr. Humphries hugged them.

"Good night!" Mr. Lucas cried.

"Good night, Mr. Lucas, good night, Mr. Humphries," Betty said as they left. She closed the door behind them.

Part 2- Grandma For Hire

Mr. Lucas and Mr. Humphries had settled into their new home. Mrs. Humphries regularly visited her son to ensure he had clean socks and underwear, enough toilet paper, and food. It was almost as if he hadn't moved out at all! She also wanted to make sure that the East End ruffians weren't accosting her little boy.

Stephanie and Katherine also visited regularly, soaking up all the attention from their uncles. They had become a favorite of Mrs. Humphries, who enjoyed spoiling them as much as possible.

"Grandmother made us faerie cakes!" squealed Stephanie as she and Katherine toddled through the door and into the lounge.

"Whose grandmother?" Stephen asked, looking up from his paper.

"Our grandmother!" Katherine stated, "Uncle Clay's mum 'dopted us as her grand-babies since she don't have any and we don't have a gran'ma!"

"She doesn't have any," he corrected.

"That's what I said! She don't have no grand-babies!" she explained, becoming flustered.

"No, sweetheart, she doesn't have any grandchildren."

"I know that, Daddy! That's why she's got us!" her little voice raised and she waved her arms animatedly.

Stephen sighed and smiled, "Did you have a good time?" He figured it better to change the subject than spend the afternoon playing Professor Henry Higgins.

"Oh, yes, Daddy! It was fun!" cried Stephanie, "She made faerie cakes and tea and she showed us pictures of Uncle Clay when he was little!"

"Well, so long as you don't make nuisances of yourselves."

They climbed on Stephen's lap and rested their heads on his chest. He wrapped his arms around them lovingly, pressing his lips into their hair.

"I can hear your heart beat, Daddy!" Katherine whispered.

"You used to like to listen to my heartbeat when you were a baby. I would put you on my chest and rock you in the rocking chair and you would sleep in my arms."

"What about me, Daddy? Did I listen to your heart beat, too?" Stephanie asked, her eyebrows raised. He marveled at how much like himself Stephanie looked.

"Mmm-Hmm. You and I spent a lot of time in the chair. Mummy was very tired after she had you, so we would rock in the chair and walk round the common and watch football together."

The girls snuggled in his arms. His throat tightened and he swallowed hard. He was amazed that these two beautiful children were his; the corners of his eyes pricked with unshed tears and he closed his eyes.

"Read to us, Daddy!" Katherine tugged on his sleeve.

A smile etched across his face as Stephen opened his paper to the funny pages and Stephanie pointed to a cartoon for him to read. The girls giggled as he read to them, changing his voice for each character.