Sometimes Alan couldn't believe his luck. It was rotten.
Just when he was beginning to get his head around Maths, it was exam season and he'd failed it. And just as he was starting to understand where his dad was coming from, and to get on, like adults, his old man had to go and die on him.
He went up to Devon only to find that Doug Harper had lost his job on the ferries for being too familiar with the female passengers, and he went back to London only to find that Uncle Vic had finally succeeded in finding tenants for his dad's house.
So he found himself sitting in the pub to avoid going back to his crummy little bedsit, watching Tucker and Pongo Yates, of all people, making googly eyes at each other. It wasn't that he hadn't seen the possibility – he would have had to be blind not to, what with the way Tucker had carried on – he had just never believed anything would actually come of Tucker's posturing.
"I saw your Susi the other day," Trisha said when Tucker went off to the bar, obviously her idea of making conversation. "She was all dressed up. I hardly recognized her."
Alan just scowled into his pint and muttered, "She's not my Susi."
Not anymore, at any rate.
Once upon a time he would never have imagined he could feel so bitter about it. His stomach fluttered every time Susi smiled at him, and even the prospect of having Mrs McMahon as a future mother in law wasn't enough to put him off the whole idea.
He had told Susi once that he wasn't very good with words, after Tucker and Tommy had sent her a stupid love letter with his name at the bottom. He had tried all the same, trying again and again to write out the thoughts in his head, all in his best handwriting.
The only thing any of it had been good for was lining the waste paper basket, and his dad had laughed at him, and deservedly so, when he came across it.
Susi told him that it didn't matter, because it was like judo. Anyone could get better at it, all it took was practice.
There had only been one thing he needed practice at, and that was learning not to believe everything Susi said to him. Because when she had said his grades didn't matter, she had been lying, and when she had said forever, she hadn't even meant until the end of the school year.
"She's still with that " Trisha said, even as he replayed the moment in his head when he had first found out about him. The moment when Susi had made it painfully obvious that he just wasn't good enough. "Oi, Alan, are you even listening?"
He hmmed, noncommittal, and would have had another earful if Tucker hadn't chosen that moment to reappear.
Susi had gotten over it. It was time he did too.