“You know, Graham, my house is much closer to the park than yours. Why don’t you follow me home so that everybody can get dried off and warm? It’s got to be better than sitting shivering in the car all that way, what do you say?”
They’d now reached the car park, and were just about to go their separate ways when Lesley had this brainwave. The reasons she gave were true, of course, although if she was totally honest there was a selfish element to the suggestion too, as she was really hoping to be able to spend a little longer with Graham before they parted company.
“Hmm, well I wouldn’t want to impose Les, I’m sure you’ve got your hands full with those pair.” He waved a hand towards Jack and Tom, who were racing up and down with his own two sons, seemingly still full of beans despite the long day. “I won’t lie though, the prospect of an hour in the car with two hyperactive, soggy and no doubt grouchy boys does rather fill me with dread, so breaking up the journey would be welcome.”
Smiling and nodding, Lesley announced “Well that’s sorted then! Come on, lets get everybody loaded up and then you can follow me, we only live about 20 minutes away. If nothing else, we can have a brew and I’m sure I can sort the lads out with some old clothes of Jacks, save them being uncomfortable on the rest of the journey. Lucy’s bound to have something that will fit Ellie, too, if she wants to change. I’ve nothing that will fit you thought I’m afraid, although you’re welcome to avail yourself of my tumble drier.”
Chuckling at how organised and thoughtful Lesley was, he thanked her for her kindness and then told the boys and Ellie of the slight change of plan. Sam and Ben were positively bouncing at the idea of spending longer with their new found friends, and once they’d heard Jack and Tom eagerly told them about the ‘amazing’ toys they had to show them. Ellie, however, looked a little downcast.
“What’s the matter sweetheart?” Graham asked her quietly, trying not to draw the attention of the others.
“Nothing Dad. I’m just, kinda, icky you know, after…earlier. Was quite looking forward to getting home and grabbing a shower, and some clean clothes. But don’t worry, I can see how well you and Lesley are getting on, so I don’t mind going for a while.”
Frowning a little, Graham put an arm around his daughters shoulders. “I’m sorry love, I didn’t even think about that! Of course you’d want to go home, I’ll tell Les we’ll have to give it a miss for today, I’m sure we can meet up tomorrow – besides, we’ve quote a collection of clothes and things that we will need to return to her anyway, haven’t we, haha.”
Lesley had noticed the exchange, and made her way over to where they were standing talking. “Everything ok? Are we ready to make a move? The lads are all strapped in, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of you Graham, as our estate can be a right nightmare to navigate, especially in the twilight.”
“Actually Les, I think we’re going to have to take a bit of a rain check, if that’s ok with you?” He glanced at Ellie and smiled. “I think we should probably be getting straight home, it’s been a long day and I’m sure we’re all in need of hot showers and our beds.”
Lesley’s face fell and her smile faltered, disappointed as she’d so been looking forward to spending a little more quality time together, but before she could answer Ellie jumped in. “No Dad, it’s fine, honestly, I said I don’t mind. Sorry, Lesley, that’s my fault. After, you know, my little accident, I need to get cleaned up and stuff. But an extra half an hour or so isn’t going to make any difference.” Then, adding with a cheeky grin “Did you mention hot chocolate?”
“Oi, cheeky little Madam!” Graham chided, but grinning widely himself as it looked like their plans may be back on track.
“I’m sorry Ellie love, I didn’t even think about that, how selfish of me. There’s no reason you can’t jump in the shower at mine though if you like, and then feel free to have a rifle through Lucy’s things and see what will fit you, I know she won’t mind one bit. You can get yourself sorted whilst I make the hot chocolate, then I’m sure you’ll feel a lot better on the way home.”
Spontaneously Ellie stepped forward and hugged Lesley, whispering “Thank you.” into her ear as she did so. Being a bit of a stroppy teen, she wasn’t usually one for too much personal contact, and especially not with her old teachers, but she really had been touched by just how much Lesley had looked out for her throughout the day.
Having settled on their plans, and with everybody loaded up Lesley took the lead and guided Graham to her home, where they set the four boys loose in the garden for a last 10 minutes of messy play before it was time for them to get cleaned up, dried and changed. Whilst they were running around, Lesley and Graham set to work producing mugs of steaming, creamy hot chocolate taped off with chocolate curls and toffee sauce, and Ellie disappeared for a quick shower to freshen herself up.
Following Lesley’s directions, Ellie soon found the family bathroom, and right across the hall was Lucy’s bedroom, which she’d been invited to make use of, and to borrow anything she may need. It felt more than a little strange poking through another girls room, especially one she’d never met, but the prospect of being clean and dry for what felt like the first time that day overrode any worries that were niggling her, and she quick found another pair of leggings, a cute t-shirt and a warm, fluffy hoodie all of which looked like they’d fit her ok, along with another pair of Lucy’s undies, this time quite childish patterned ones, which she presumed must be old and therefore Lucy wouldn’t mind too much.
Having stripped off her wet clothes in the bathroom, Ellie stepped under the shower and enjoyed the delight of hot water coursing over her, warming her poor cold body and washing away the shame of her two accidents. Satisfied that she was clean once more, and conscious that she didn’t want to hog the bathroom in case anybody else needed to shower, she stepped out quick and wrapped herself in a large, fluffy towel.
At home, she always got dressed in her bedroom after a bath or shower, so without even thinking she’d left the pile of Lucy’s clothes which she was borrowing on the bed. This obviously presented her with a problem, as it meant she had to cross back over the landing wrapped in only a towel to preserve her modest, not something she was too keen on in a strangers home! Still, it was that or sit there half naked for the rest of the evening, so she took her chance and made a dash for it, grateful that nobody was around to see her without any clothes on.
Closing the bedroom door behind her, she relaxed a little now that she had a bit of privacy, and began taking in her surroundings as she dried herself off. Lucy’s bedroom was pretty untidy, not at all unlike her own, and in most other respects it was similar, although there were a few more remnants of childhood laying around than she had at home, bits of toys and the like which probably weren’t played with anymore, but hadn’t been discarded for long enough to have been thrown away yet. All in all, it was obviously a younger kids room, but not too much younger, and Ellie found the familiarity and the slightly childish aspects to be comforting and welcoming. In truth, she wished she hadn’t had to grow up quite so quickly, and she missed having toys to play with, just a little bit. She hated admitting it, but running around and playing with the boys today had been the most fun she’d had in a very long time, it had been like she was a kid again, instead of being a kid stuck in a teenagers body which is how she sometimes felt.
Sitting herself down on the edge of Lucy’s bed to get dressed, Ellie was surprised to hear a drinking sound from underneath her, and patted the sheets with her hand to try and replicate it, curious as to what had made that noise. Feeling the crinkly plastic under her hand, she immediately realised that it was a waterproof sheet. Did that mean that Lucy still wet the bed? Surely not, she was what 11, 12 maybe? Ellie had known what it was as she’d had one on her own bed growing up, as most kids do – her own brothers both had theirs on still, even though their accidents were fortunately rare now – but hers had been removed when she was no older than probably 9. Maybe Lesley was just a little over-cautions she thought to herself, as everybody could have an occasional little accident, couldn’t they, even when they were far too old really?
Dressed in Lucy’s clothes and feeling much fresher and more comfortable, Ellie wasn’t sure what to do with the wet things, eventually settling for leaving them on the floor near to the door until she’d had a chance to ask Lesley. She made her way downstairs, finding her Dad and Lesley sitting at the kitchen table, each with a glass of wine in front of them! Lined up alongside were 5 steaming mugs of hot chocolate, one each for her and the four boys, who she could see were stilling running around the back garden, now not only soaked to the skin but also covered in mud, grass and goodness only knows what else!
“Feel better now sweetie?” Lesley asked “Did you leave the wet things upstairs?”
Nodding and smiling, as she took a seat beside her Dad and eagerly drank from the first of the mugs, the rich drink warming her as she swallowed. “Yes, thanks Lesley, much better. Are these things ok for me to borrow?” She gestured to the clothes that she was now wearing. “Yes, I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I left them near the door in Lucy’s room.”
“Of course love, they suit you actually, you and Lucy must be a similar size! Glad you’re feeling better, and don’t worry I’ll take care of the other clothes with the boys stuff once they’re in and cleaned up.”
Graham now turned to Ellie, wine in hand and looking more relaxed and at ease than she had seen him for a very long time, probably years. “Ellie, I’ve ordered a Chinese for us all to share, as a thank you to Lesley for helping us out. Whilst you were in the shower, we’ve been having a bit of a chat, and she’s asked whether we’d like to stay over tonight, so that I can have a couple of drinks without having to worry about driving home. Would that be ok with you?” 2
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