After the family Overton had done battle on the Cam we squelched our way back along the river bank to Chez Cush in high spirits.
As we got closer to the house we could hear a happy chatter and the sound of glasses chinking.
We walked around the side of the house towards the terrace and found the family gathered.
“Oh goodness you’re all wet” Mum said “You’re worse than you were when you were children”
“Aha the motley crew return” Uncle Herbert said jovially “Who won the Battle of the Cam?”
“I did” Said Helen triumphantly as she squelched onto the terrace.
“So why are you dripping wet?” asked a bemused Uncle Edgar
“They threw me in river” said Helen indignantly “because they’re mean”
This information was received with raucous laughter and not with the wave of sympathy she had been expecting so she flounced off to get changed.
The rest of us decided to have a drink on the terrace first.
During our absence a large white marquee had appeared on the lawn on the west side of the house in preparation of Uncle Herbert’s 60th Birthday party the next day.
Over the next hour everyone slowly drifted off in their ones and twos to get ready for the evening meal until there was only Dorcas and I left and we spent a romantic hour cuddling in the hammock watching the sun go down.
“This is nice” I said
“This is perfect” Dorcas corrected me
I was up early on Saturday morning, as was Mum, there was only the two of us, everyone else was sleeping in after severe over indulgence at dinner the night before.
We sat in the conservatory having breakfast and watched a procession of vans arrive on the drive and disgorge their various cargo into waiting hands who transported them to the marquee or its environs.
“What do you think of Dorcas?” I said suddenly although Mum had known her longer than I had as she had been at school with Helen.
“She’s very nice dear” she replied as she stood up
“Of course she’s far too pretty for you to keep” she continued and left the room before I could respond.
“She’s far too pretty for me to keep” What on earth did she mean by that?
I spent the rest of Saturday morning wondering what she meant by her remark.
Did she mean Dorcas was too pretty for me? Not good enough for me? Or too good for me?
Anyway the conclusion I reached was that I loved Dorcas Fox-Martin and I was going to keep her, end of story.
At two o’clock people started to arrive and the party slowly got going with the garden quickly filling with familiar faces.
I was appointed one of the “meeters and greeters” which was a great opportunity to introduce Dorcas to all and sundry.
After about an hour she went off to babysit Connor so Helen was free to mingle and I had a chance to catch up with old family friends and acquaintances but as a result I hardly saw Dorcas all afternoon and I really felt her absence.
As the evening gave way to dusk all but the hardiest of us had moved into the marquee where shortly before the band started their set my kid brother Danny said he had an announcement to make and a murmur spread around the room in anticipation.
“I would just like to make a short but significant announcement”
Now I was reasonably sure it was not a marriage declaration as I knew Danny’s position on marriage very well indeed.
He loved Siti with all his heart but he would never marry her because he thought marriage was a nonsense.
I had no opinion on marriage myself as I never thought the opportunity would ever arise.
Although Danny was anti marriage I suspected he might change his mind if given sufficient incentive to do so, namely if there was a chance he might lose Siti.
So when the announcement was imminent I was certain sure it wasn’t marriage but wasn’t prepared at all for what he did say as he stood holding Siti’s hand.
“We are having a baby” he said excitedly and the tent erupted in cheers and then my Mum cried.
About an hour later I was on my way back from the bar when I walked behind my Mums table out of her line of sight.
“You must be very proud Eleanor” Aunt Alexandra said
“Yes all my children are married or settled down” She Replied “apart from Ben of course”
At that remark I stopped in my tracks.
“But he has a pretty little girlfriend” Alexandra corrected her.
“I know and she’s lovely” Mum said “but he’ll never keep hold of her she way out of his league”
There was a brief pause and then she continued
“He really needs to find himself a horsey type, not a pretty little brunette”
Well they say eaves droppers never hear anything good about themselves well that would teach me.
As I continued on my journey I was feeling absolutely gob smacked.
I approached our table and Helen slurred loudly
“Then they threw me in the river”
Everyone laughed, but I rather uncharitably thought “for god’s sake let it go”
I sat next to Dorcas who gave me a smile as I sat down, I smiled back but inside I wasn’t smiling.
It was only when we were on the dance floor smooching along to 10cc’s “I’m not in love” that I felt at peace and I thought to myself “oh yes I am”
It was the next morning when I was getting ready for church that I made the decision.
I had woken up that morning having had an epiphany.
I quickly finished getting dressed and rushed downstairs and into the kitchen.
“Where’s Dorcas?” I asked abruptly
“And good morning to you” Abi said sitting at the table still wearing her dressing gown.
“Have you seen her or not?” I asked
“She’s in the shower” she snapped
“Thanks” I said and turned on my heels and left
“And I’m next” she shouted after me
I went upstairs to the guest bathroom and pressed my ear against the door.
I could hear the sound of the shower running and tuneless singing.
So having detected it was Dorcas and not my mother I knocked on the door.
“I’ll be out in a minute” she called
“I need to talk to you” I called back
“I’ll be out in a minute hon” she said
The door was locked but it was an old house with a lot of the original fittings, including the door latch on the inside of the bathroom door.
I couldn’t wait a minute, what I had to say to her was urgent so as Dorcas wouldn’t let me in I had to let myself in.
So I used my credit card, sliding it between the frame and the door and lifting the latch.
I pushed open the door which squeaked as it opened.
“Who’s that?” she called in alarm
“It’s only me” I answered
Dorcas was just stepping out of the shower and hastily covered herself with a towel.
Although in the two months we had been seeing each other we had, to put it as delicately as possible, been intimate we were not at that stage of intimacy that allowed naked converse.
“Get out I’m not decent” she shouted
“I have something important to say” I insisted
“Can’t it wait?” she asked
“No it can’t” I said
“Well you can’t just barge into the bathroom when someone else’s is in there” Dorcas said crossly
“It’s not decent we’re not some old married couple you know”
“That’s just the point” I said
“What is?” she said still cross
“I want us to be” I explained
“You want us to be what?” she said with a puzzled expression
“Married” I said quietly “I want to marry you”
Dorcas just stood there looking at me with a vacant look on her face.
“Well what do you think?” I asked
“I think you should come over here and kiss me” Dorcas replied
“Is that really decent?” I queried
“It is now we’re engaged” she answered and we kissed
We decide not to tell my Mum until after church as we thought her head might explode.
We did tell Danny though but only as he happened to be passing the bathroom as we came out but we swore him to silence until lunchtime.
“I’d better be your best man” he said
“But you don’t believe in marriage” I replied
“That’s not the point” he said