After having brushed his teeth and sprayed on some deodorant (not the usual early-morning routine, but they weren't married yet!), Peter walked down the stairs, acquiring a distinct spring in his step at the unmistakable smell of bacon. Entering the kitchen, he spotted Assumpta, already dressed, standing at the stove.
'What is this?' he asked, barely containing his excitement about the prospect of a breakfast consisting of anything more extravagant than grain toast with jam.
Grinning, Peter walked up behind her, sliding his arms around her waist. Assumpta found herself suddenly unable to breathe. She knew not how many times she had stood at the bar in Fitzgerald's, imagining how it would feel to have Peter do exactly what he had just done. She closed her eyes, savouring the moment.
'You made me breakfast,' Peter gushed.
'But we haven't got any food...'
'I went to the shop.'
'You went to the shop,' he said, in the same gushing tone.
Remembering another time they'd been together in a kitchen, Peter smiled, and began to kiss her in the exact same spot...
'Oh, get a room, would you?' came a positively disgusted voice from behind them.
Clenching his fists, but forcing a smile onto his face, Peter turned around.
'Good morning, Joe.'
Joe looked approvingly at the breakfast laid out on the table. Turning to Assumpta, he asked, 'You do this?'
'Thanks,' he grunted, not quite managing to hide the hint of a smile forming as he sitting down to a plate.
Joe ate quickly, then headed off to college, leaving Assumpta and Peter to lazily consume a little too much food and a fair few cups of tea. It was only when Peter stood up to start washing the dishes that Assumpta noticed what he was wearing. He had come down in a tight white T-shirt (which was fine – quite wonderful, in fact), but he was also sporting blue pyjama pants illustrated with pictures of the three puppets from The Sooty Show.
'Thank you,' he said, beaming, clearly not at all phased by her mockery. 'My mum gave them to me for Christmas.'
Then, in the interest of making sure Assumpta fully appreciated the value of the pyjama pants, he proceeded to do a little strut about the room to model them.
'Just clean the dishes, you idiot,' laughed Assumpta, shaking her head at him.
Mark's days off didn't begin until the next day, so Peter and Assumpta had one more day to themselves before the boys started going through their mother's things. The pair spent the morning doing not much of anything, and, after lunch, Peter took Assumpta out to show her around his old stomping ground. She saw his church and his school, Saint Timothy's, where Henrie was currently in her second year. Before long, they ended up in a large park a few blocks away from home.
Peter and his brothers had spent a lot of time in this park – according to Peter, their mum didn't want them hanging around the house all day, though Assumpta couldn't imagine why – so he had a memory for just about every landmark they passed as they walked along beside the park's man-made lake.
'That's where Mark fell and broke his leg during a three-legged race with the Griffin boys from down the road... That's where Joey took his first steps, on a family picnic... That's where we used to play football. Whoever was on my team always had to be Middlesbrough, because I used to wear my jersey every single day when we came to play. I got it so muddy that Mum gave up on washing it in the end... This is where the girls used to sit and watch us, because we never let them play... Oh, and right here is where I pushed Laura Brennan into the lake. Her big sister had to jump in and save her, 'cause she didn't know how to swim.'
Assumpta's jaw dropped.
'Peter, did it ever occur to you that maybe the reason Laura Brennan didn't like you wasn't anything to do with Mark? Is it possible that she didn't like you because you were a grubby little git who wouldn't let girls play football and who pushed her into this dirty lake to almost drown?'
Peter looked incredulous.
'Well, I only did it because I liked her!'
'Oh, of course,' Assumpta nodded, 'man logic.'
'I'll throw you in the lake, if you're not careful!' Peter warned, seizing her and holding her dangerously close to the water's edge.
'No!' she squealed, whacking him repeatedly in the chest until he let her go.
'I'm starting to think Laura made a lucky escape!' she stated, but she contradicted herself by taking Peter's hand as they continued to walk along.
As the afternoon sun flickered through the leaves, making patterns on the grass, Assumpta was vaguely aware of Peter relaying a sad tale about how he'd spent a whole afternoon in one of these trees for fear of Mark beating him up when he discovered his bike had been scratched. But her mind was thinking of far more serious things. She had very nearly come to a decision...
'This is the bridge where I'd bring little Joey to play pirates. We'd make eye patches out of -'
'Peter,' Assumpta said, stopping mid-stride and looking very serious, as though something of the utmost urgency had just occurred to her.
'Yeah?' asked Peter, also stopping, and regarding her with a curious expression.
Assumpta hesitated for a moment before stating matter-of-factly,
'I love you.'
Peter actually jumped, as though he'd just taken an unexpected blow. Eyes wide, he only managed to choke out a single word.
Assumpta rolled her eyes.
'No. No, I just get enjoyment out of telling gorgeous Englishmen that I'm in love with them when I'm not. Next on my list is, uh, Colin Firth. Would you kindly direct me to his house?'
Peter laughed shakily as he took her by the waist and pulled her to him.
'You are not going anywhere near Colin Firth.'
He brought his forehead to rest against hers, looking into her eyes.
'But Assumpta,' he said seriously, 'do you honestly love me?'
'Yes,' she replied, steadily holding his gaze, 'I honestly love you.'
They were both flying so high, and feeling so much, that their kiss was at great risk of becoming very intense indeed... only, they were both grinning too madly to manage it. So they settled for a long and tight embrace instead.
When Henrie finished school, she and Mark came to join them in the park, bringing a picnic blanket and a box of biscuits from the shop. Naturally, Assumpta had to play on the swings with Henrie, until they both agreed that it was time for a rest and a biscuit. When they came back and sat down, Peter and Mark were obviously in the middle of planning something.
'Assumpta!' said Mark cheerfully, 'we were just talking about doing something on Friday night. Sort of a... a get together, with all our old mates.'
Assumpta's stomach twisted itself into a knot. This sounded like a positively awful idea to her...
Sensing her reaction, Peter assured her that it would be no big deal, just a few people for dinner and drinks. They wouldn't even come indoors; Mum's garden was big enough...
'C'mon, it'll be fun,' promised Mark. 'I'm sure Peter's dying to show you off to everyone. I know I would be...'
'Mark!' Peter shot him a very unimpressed look.
'I'm just saying.'
'I'm not his new car, Mark,' said Assumpta, choosing to ignore the last park of Mark's comment.
'No, but... You're gonna have to meet them all anyway, so why not get it over with all at once? Besides, it would be great for us to catch up with everyone, wouldn't it, Peter? We haven't seen them in ages, except for the funeral, which wasn't really the same. What do you say, Assumpta? I'm ready to organise everything. All I need is your blessing.'
'I'll need to buy a new dress...'
Peter screwed up his face in confusion.
'Why would you need to buy a – no, wait. Don't tell me – woman logic.'
Mark feigned a hurt expression.
'You didn't buy a new dress to come and meet us!'
'Meeting Peter's brothers at a pizza dinner is one thing; meeting all of his friends at a garden party is entirely another.'
'It's not a garden party,' Peter assured her, 'It's just...'
'A party in the garden,' finished Mark.
'Whatever. I need a dress.'
'Me too!' piped up Henrie.
'No, Henrietta, you d-'
'You can come shopping with me,' suggested Assumpta, and Henrie looked so elated by the idea that Mark couldn't bring himself to say no.
The next day, Assumpta borrowed Peter's mum's car to collect a very excited Henrie from school. Assumpta asked how Henrie's day had been, and the little girl spent the entire twenty minute drive to the shopping centre recounting everything she'd done at school.
Henrie insisted that they shop for Assumpta's dress first, and the child actually proved quite a good shopping companion. She sat patiently outside dressing rooms, waiting to give her opinion on whatever Assumpta tried on. A particularly girly maroon coloured dress which was pulled in at the waist with a white ribbon and then fell freely in light folds of fabric to just above the knee was Henrie's particular favourite. Assumpta wasn't quite so sure. It was certainly not the sort of thing she'd normally wear... partly because it was never warm enough, and partly because this style of dress just didn't fit with her life behind the bar in Ballykissangel. But it was incredibly sunny this week, she wasn't in Ballykissangel, and Henrie was absolutely adamant that 'Uncle Peter will like this dress the best'. And so she bought it.
After they had succeeded in finding Henrie the perfect purple princess dress with yellow daisies and a hair clip to match, the girls decided to reward themselves with an icecream. Sitting down on a bench outside the icecream parlour, Henrie told Assumpta that she'd had the best afternoon ever.
'It's so much fun to do girl things. I don't have any girls in my family at all now. Well, I have a cousin called Trinity, but she lives really far away. Daddy tries to do girl things with me. He even painted my nails.'
Henrie held up her purple and green nails to show Assumpta.
'But I don't think he likes it very much.'
'I'm sure that's not true,' said Assumpta. 'Your daddy loves spending time with you.'
'He doesn't like shopping.'
'No... I've never met a boy who likes shopping.'
Henrie licked her icecream thoughtfully.
'If you get married to my Uncle Peter, will you be in my family?'
A little taken aback by the question, Assumpta answered, 'Well, um, yes. I'd be your aunt.'
Henrie took another lick of her icecream.
'Am I what?'
'Going to get married to Uncle Peter?'
Assumpta laughed awkwardly.
'Well, that sort of depends on whether he asks me to.'
'If he asks you, will you say yes?'
Assumpta took a few moments to consider her answer.
'Henrie, if he does ask me, and I do say yes, you'll be the first to know.'