As the kids queued for their ride, Lesley and Graham chatted easily, getting to know each other a little better. Their previously encounters had always been a bit ‘formal’, being at parents evenings and similar, so they’d tended to just talk about Graham’s sons and their school progress. Now Lesley wasn’t working, it was easier to chat freely, and they found they had quite a bit in common.
Not only were they of a similar age, which made sense given their children were so close together too, but they’d also both divorced over the past couple of years, their former spouses no longer playing an active role in the kids lives, and both agreeing with a bitter chuckle that it was probably for the best.
Comparing notes, they also found that as single parents they faced similar challenges with their kids. Despite the couple of years age difference between Ellie and Lucy, it seemed that they were actually very similar. Lesley felt that Lucy was already becoming something of a mini teenage diva, whilst Graham was of the opinion that for all of her outward maturity, Ellie was actually a little young for her age, at least behind closed doors. She did a good job of ‘looking the part’ of a teenager, the moody almost-goth look suiting her pretty well, but at home when nobody was around to see, he quite often found her playing like a much younger girl, although he knew she’d be mortified if she knew that he’d caught her.
“You know what Lesley, it’s lovely to have some adult company for a change. Just to be able to put the world to rights, without a teenage temper tantrum or squabbling young boys. Since Angela left, it’s normally just me and the kids, and I’d do absolutely anything for any of them, you know that, but it’s great to have a proper adult chat, without t being about work.”
“Oh agreed! I’m so glad our paths crossed today Graham. I’m exactly the same, it’s either work, or at home with the kids. I love my colleagues of course, but there’s only so much staffroom chatter that I can tolerate. And whilst Lucy’s getting older, it’s still not quite the same. In a couple of years, probably, but it’s certainly been nice to have a real conversation.” She smiled across at her companion “We should do this more often, it’s good for the kids…and for us too!”
Graham nodded, but before he could answer, they were distracted by an excited shout from the queue.
“Dad! Dad! Mrs Daniels! We’re about to get on, are you watching?”
The two adults turned to face the ride again, picking out a very excited Ellie right at the front of the queue, waving madly in their direction, as the 4 boys bounced around her. Both of them smiled as they took in this scene, feeling probably the most contented they had done in years. It was great to see their kids enjoying themselves, and felt wonderful to relax themselves as well. Although, secretly, both hoped the boys bouncing and dancing around was purely down to giddiness and nothing else!
They waved back as the 5 kids were loaded into a ride car, Ellie taking charge and positioning herself in the middle of the 4 boys, and placing a protective arm around them as the ride began to move. Within seconds, they heard the first loud splash as the car landed in a large, slime pool, and both cringed at the thought of what state their kids would be in by the time they got back off. Oh well, you’re only young once, and the shrieks of delight suggested that they were having a ball!
The ride came to an end after 5 minutes or so, and as the car pulled up onto the loading platform, both Lesley and Graham burst out laughing at the sight which greeted them, as the 5 kids were absolutely soaked to the skin, and coated in green ‘swamp slime’.
“Well, would you look at the state of them?” Graham groaned. “Maybe that nightie will be coming in handy after all!”
As the group squelched towards them, they could see the expressions of delight and ecstasy on their faces, and suddenly the mess didn’t matter at all. Seeing their kids so happy really was worth it.
“Enjoy that, you lot?” Lesley called over, laughing as Ellie stood to the side and removed one of her Dr Marten boots, tipping upside down as a veritable flood poured all over the floor, and then repeating the process with the other foot.
“It was AMAZING!” She called back, grinning from ear to ear, and not seeming to notice nor care how wet she was.
“Boys, do you want to come and grab some dry clothes and get changed before we head for some lunch? You’re dripping all over the place!” Lesley was rummaging though her bag, and soon pulled out a complete outfit each for Jack and Tom, waving the clothes at them and indicating the toilets which were nearby. Both boys scampered over, chattering excitedly to each other about just how incredible The Swamp had been, and took the bundle of clothes each before bouncing over to the toilets to change.
Graham had just done exactly the same for his two boys, and the four of them went in together to get dried and changed, and no doubt to mess around with no adults to keep an eye on them he thought, although a bit of mischief never hurt anybody so he wasn’t too bothered.
“Sorry Ellie love, we’ve not got anything else for you to change into, unless you want me to go back to the shop for the…”
“Dad! No, I must definitely do not!” Ellie cut across him before he could even finish his sentence, although it was said with a twinkle and a cheeky grin, making it clear that she wasn’t mad with him any more. “I’ll be fine. At least it’s swamp water and not just wee this time. And I’m soaked all over anyway, so it doesn’t look like I’ve wet my pants or anything.”
Graham raised an eyebrow as he listened to her protestations, thinking he sensed a hidden meaning in there but not wanting to embarrass her by questioning it. Whatever, she was happy, and that was all that mattered. Although he hoped they’d let her into the restaurant like that, otherwise everybody would be starving by the time she’d dried off. Ellie’s face coloured at the expression on her Dad’s face, realising what she’d said, and she busied herself with something on her phone to save the shame of having to answer that question, if he decided to ask it.3
Audio Version of Chapter