James Lucas arrived home at a quarter past nine. Mr. Humphries sat in the lounge reading and nursing a cup of tea. The door latch clicked and he entered, closing the door gently.
"So? How'd it go?" Mr. Humphries asked expectantly.
"It was lovely. I really like her a lot!"
"Well, this is the third time this week you've had dinner over at her place. It looks like it's getting serious," Mr. Humphries joked.
"We just had dinner! But we talked and talked. We talked while we washed up the dishes. We talked while we played Uno. We talked over coffee. I read a story to Mirabelle and tucked her into bed; that night we babysat the Peacock's daughters gave me an insight to what it might be like to have children. I want to spend more time with Sarah. Man, Clay, I think I'm in love!" Mr. Lucas' eyes were wide with excitement as he spoke. His hands were animated and his voice was like an enraptured teenager.
Mr. Humphries swallowed hard the lump that formed in his throat. He couldn't help but be elated for his friend. After ten years of crap luck, it finally looked like James Lucas' fortune was about to turn around. Mr. Humphries stood as he spoke to his roommate.
"I'm happy for you, James! No, really! She's very sweet," Mr. Humphries was almost blushing as he spoke.
"This is unlike anything I've ever felt. I wish my dad were still alive. D'you think Captain Peacock would be good to talk to?"
"Well, he has softened up quite a bit since he left Grace Brothers. I think fatherhood has been good for him. What'd you have in mind?"
"I dunno. How does one know when to ask someone to marry him?"
"You're thinking of asking Sarah to marry you?" Mr. Humphries threw his arms around his friend and embraced him tightly, "I am really happy for you, James!"
Mr. Lucas blushed, "I haven't asked her yet…"
"Oh, you will!" Mr. Humphries chirped, "Would you like a cuppa?"
Mr. Humphries turned and walked into the kitchen to retrieve a cup and saucer, returned to their dinette table and poured Mr. Lucas a cup of tea.
"Thanks, Clay. I feel like this is going to work out. How long have I known Sarah?"
"About two months now. You kiss her yet?" he asked mischievously.
'No. I've been too afraid I'd screw this up. I didn't want her to think that's all I'm interested in."
"You'd better kiss her soon or else she might think you're not interested. And since you live with a man…she might think something else!" he winked.
Mr. Lucas' eyebrows shot up.
Mr. Lucas sat on his lawn chair in his front garden. The evening air was balmy from the afternoon's rain shower. Children played in the lane. Betty, Stephanie and Katherine greeted him as they walked by on their way to meet Stephen at his bus.
"Hello, Uncle Dickie!" Katherine chortled, her long tresses dancing behind her.
"'Evenin', Kathy!" he called to her.
Stephanie waved wildly, "Hello, Uncle Dickie! Where's Uncle Clay?"
"He's in the house cooking dinner. I'll tell him you asked for him!"
They continued on their trek. He watched as they turned the corner out of sight.
Several moments later, he recognized Stephen's tall form looming up the street. He had his arm round Betty and the girls scampered ahead of them. Mr. Lucas' heart constricted when he thought about the possibility of that being him walking up the lane with his family. He felt a lump form in his throat as he entertained the idea of having children of his own.
Stephen and Betty approached closer and Mr. Lucas stood up to address him.
"Captain Peacock? Are you free?" he lightheartedly greeted.
"Good evening, Mr. Lucas!"
"May I have a word in your ear?"
"Yes. Betty, dear, I'll be along in a few," he leaned over and kissed her as she continued on up to their home. Stephen stood at the gate to Mr. Lucas and Mr. Humphries' flat.
"Fag?" Mr. Lucas offered as he tapped the pack and a cigarette slid out.
"Oh, what the heck? Thank you." Stephen took a cigarette from the pack and Mr. Lucas extended his hand holding a lighted match to Stephen. Both men took a drag of their fags and exhaled.
"Captain Peacock, how'd'ju know when you married Mrs. Peacock?" Mr. Lucas started.
"Know what?" Stephen shook his head, confused, and did a double-take.
"Know it was going to work out? I mean, how did you know she was the one?" Mr. Lucas puffed on his cigarette, watching Stephen's face intently.
"I didn't. I mean, there's no scientific formula for these sorts of things. There are no guarantees. You just go with your heart."
"Well, how did you know you were supposed to marry her?"
"I didn't know that either," Stephen explained, "I just knew how I felt that whole year we were apart. I knew I didn't want to feel like that any more. You have a certain someone you're interested in?" Stephen arched an eyebrow.
"Her in Number 6," Mr. Lucas motioned to the flat across the street.
"Ah, Mirabelle's mum. Mirabelle is one special little girl. Katherine has conscripted me as her surrogate father!" he laughed as he took another long drag off his cigarette.
Mr. Lucas chuckled, "I like her a lot. Sarah, that is! I've spent several nights this week with them and I think I'd like to spend a lot more time with them. This isn't like all those other times."
"Clunk, click, strip off quick?"
"I haven't even kissed her, Captain Peacock! I just want to be sure I'm doing the right thing. Clay is beside himself overjoyed."
"He'll probably want to be a bridesmaid!" Stephen mused.
Mr. Lucas smiled and laughed, "So what was it like when you knew in your heart that Mrs. Peacock the one?" he pressed.
"Betty makes my heart dance, if that helps you."
"Yes, Captain Peacock. It does…surprisingly. Funny that."