Well guys, here it is, the last chapter! I want to thank each and every one of you who have read it (my loyal reviewers too! Consider yourself hugged over the internet, lol!) it really does mean a lot to me that my work has been enjoyed. This was a light hearted piece of fiction never to be taken as '100% real to life' because we all like a little escapism from time to time, and I'm glad that it has been seen in that light for the most part. My other two works stand to get a lot more gritty as they go along, so I've enjoyed revisiting this for the light relief! Again, thank you all so much for your commitment to reading and reviewing, and here we are, the last act. Time to wave bye bye to Beth, Lee and their family and friends...
Chapter Twenty Seven
"So he's still quiet? Oh, love. You and Lee must be going out of your minds with worry. How did he get on with the therapist?" My mum asks me as I speak to her via Skype, a week before Christmas.
"Yeah, the therapist couldn't get anything out of him, and believe me she's good. We've seen her three times now, he has an hour appointment with her per week, and she now comes to us to see how he behaves in an environment he's used to, to see if that might help but it didn't. We're still hoping the Christmas spirit might excite him a little, maybe prompt him to talk, but so far it hasn't happened," I tell her, watching her kiss her hand and then press it to the screen, which makes me well up a little. She's being so supportive to us. I still haven't heard from dad, which isn't surprising really. Charlotte tells me he still won't budge on the idea, and now she thinks he's being stubborn because each day that passes with me being safe and blissfully happy with Lee, and not being knocked around like he thinks will happen just confirms he's wrong. He doesn't like that, of course, being wrong.
"Well, here's hoping and I'm keeping everything crossed for you. Now please, please, please tell me that package arrived for you from me!" she then asks, gritting her teeth and shaking her fists around in a nervous action.
"Yes, mum, it arrived yesterday morning and we've stuck all the presents under the tree. You really shouldn't have, especially when you've only just started working again," I reply. Mum brought us a pile of presents that are all currently under the coolest Christmas tree ever. Everything is black, purple, silver and orange and it looks like a Halloween tree. I love it. Lee and I both got fried trying to work the lights, absolutely pissing ourselves laughing after we got shocked. We brought new ones the day after. Mum got her gift from me about a week ago, it would have been sooner but I wanted to buy her something else as well as what I'd already brought for her. I've been shockingly organised this Christmas. I'm usually such a last minute kinda girl in that respect, shopping on Christmas Eve and all that.
"Well Sainsbury's pay well if you do the night shift, and apart from dealing with the piss heads who are probably as terrible as I was, I like it," she tells me. She works at the twenty four hour mini Sainsbury's around the corner from her local tube station, just a ten minute walk up the road from where her house is. She's been there for seven weeks and as she says she really likes it, working from 9pm to 3am from Tuesday to Saturday.
"Thank you, once again." I tell her before we talk more, mainly about Vic and the kids, and dad gets a mention too before our Skype conversation is over, leaving me to go head for the bath I'm about to run. Lee is getting a late workout in sine we've been out all day with Dylan, who was out like a light ten minutes after he sat down on the sofa, with no dinner either. His stomach will be growling like an angry dog come morning. It's while I'm running the bath that I pick up one of the books Margaret Tolle (Dylan's therapist) gave us about dealing with grieving children, and in the end decide to take it into the bath with me to read more while I lie back and soak in the hot water. Most of what is featured in the books is what Lee and I have already trawled through on the internet, but in much greater detail. It also ties in with a lot of what I've read on the forum that guy Josh put me onto, some experiences nannies and Au Pair's have had within the families they're worked for. I spoke to an Au Pair called Bridget from Russia, who has worked with the same family over in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years. She told me all about when one of her charges fell completely silent for three weeks after the death of her grandmother. All the other children grieved in a less worrying way, but she told me that little Meghan, who was six at the time, didn't speak to anyone for three weeks after her death. She advised me the best thing I could be is supportive, loving and patient while he found his voice again, and said she understood how frustrating it is. She told me another thing she did with Meghan was not so much to guilt trip her, but make her aware in the gentlest way she could how her choosing not to speak affected other people too.
She'd tell Meghan little things like how much she missed her talking to her and telling her little secrets, and how she missed her singing, and how her dollies missed her talking to them too. Apparently it was something completely unrelated and unprompted, that made the little girl talk again. During a massive thunderstorm Meghan flew out of bed and ran into Bridget's bedroom, diving under the covers and shouting 'Bridgie! There's scary thunder in the sky!' and that was that, Meghan found her voice again. Dylan doesn't come in to us any longer in the night, so his sleeping through does show some progress. The fact he isn't talking is a massive step backward though. You know, I can't help but think how different my life would be now, had I not got to know Lee that first night of the European leg of the Solitaire Rising world tour. What would have happened if say, that guy with the spiky blue hair hadn't have caught my eye, and I hadn't of ended up with a spiked drink I needed to puke up, would Lee and I have ever struck up that first connection? It's doubtful since he said he wasn't looking for anything with women at the time in any way, shape or form. Not even casual sex interested him. If we hadn't gotten to know each other I'd have just left the tour like I was planning to, gone home and worked and then headed out on tour with Machine Head to spend some time with Robb (Flynn, another vocalist I've had a lot of non-sexual time with in the past) and forgotten all about Lee. The life I have now certainly isn't one I expected to have, but I love having it, being in Lee's world with him, having a life that is much different to the one I thought I'd continue to live. I still can't believe it's been six months. I still maintain it feels like much longer. This relationship is so brand new too, we haven't entered that bickering stage yet, although of course we do have crossed words from time to time it's nothing heavy at yet. I expect it to come eventually though! We have been through a lot together in our short time though, which I believe has cemented our relationship a lot quicker than it would have.
"Evening, my sexy red haired one," Lee tells me upon entering the bathroom, after I hear him climbing the stairs, opening the bedroom door and then dropping his gym bag before arriving in here. He doesn't have a stealth mode. He'd be a useless Ninja.
"Hey, how was your workout? Good I take it, since you stink!" I exclaim as he leans to kiss me, laughing and then licking my cheek. I kind of love and hate it when he does that.
"Fucking amazing, I changed my routine like I do every few months and it killed me which I like, as you know. I didn't add any more weight though; I think I'm as big as I want to get now," he replies while stripping off. Yeah, he's even bigger now than when I met him, but even though his chest is so broad you could use it as a chair and he has nineteen inch biceps, he still has leanness to him. He has virtually no body fat, all muscle. It takes commitment to look like that. Commitment I couldn't muster, I like kebab meat and chips way too much. The most exercise I do is jogging, dancing and sex. "So, how's my boy? Did he wake up again at all tonight?" he then asks me before getting into the shower.
"Nope, he's been sleeping soundly since, and I checked on him a few times too since he crashed just in case he got up and was pottering around his room," I tell him, looking over to see him washing his hair.
"Damn, he was tired. So how was your mum?" he then asks. He was just leaving before I went online to Skype with mum.
"Yeah, he must have been. Mum was fine, work is going well and all that," I reply. I get out of the bath while he's still in the shower, going and putting my thick grey sweatpants and one of Lee's massive black hoodies on and then go dry my hair down in the kitchen so the noise of my hairdryer doesn't wake Dylan. Once Lee comes down the stairs we curl up on the sofa together and watch the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, eventually giving way to talking halfway through. We're trying to decide what to do come February when Lee will be away for eleven days in total for the rescheduled Russian dates.
"If he's better by then, well there's no reason why he can't stay with my dad for a bit, but if he isn't then we'll have to take him with us, there's no question there," Lee says with a shrug.
"Or I'll stay here with him if he's really feeling down still. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to upheave him again, even though he'll be with the both of us. Then again, you being away too might make him feel insecure, so it's probably best we all go. Oh, I don't know. It's hard to gauge how the hell he's going to feel eight weeks from now, especially since he won't even speak at present," I reply with a sigh, running my hand through my hair.
"I think it'll be a last minute decision really, nothing we can plan," he tells me, putting his arms around me and kissing my head from his position lying behind me. We don't talk any further on the subject, but I think he's thinking about it all as much as I am. This whole silence with Dylan is never far from our thoughts or conversation. Little does either of us know, as we lie here and fall asleep on the couch after watching a Guy Ritchie film like the night we first met, but Dylan's refusal to talk is near its end…
When I wake up in the morning I find myself upstairs in bed, thinking what a good job Lee did of bringing me up here without waking me up. I turn and feel his warmth there, moving my head to his chest as he makes room for me, wrapping his arm around me. Mmmm, this is so nice. I haven't even opened my eyes yet. When I do, I see two pale green ones looking down at me, the most uniquely coloured eyes I've ever seen. He then smiles and kisses me, not saying a word before kissing me again and rolling over on top of me. Ahhhh, the magic of morning sex, how I've missed thee. We don't take the risk of being caught at it by indulging in a lengthy session, but damn it's hot.
"I'm getting the gym out of the way early, but I won't stay for more than two hours. I have got my cardio done already, after all," Lee tells me with a wink half an hour later as we're clearing away the table after breakfast, Dylan happy to sit and draw behind us.
"Blimey! You only came home from the gym at half nine last night!" I exclaim. I thought he'd leave it until the afternoon at the least.
"I'll be back by half eleven, tops. Just sit and chill then I'll take you two out some place again when I'm back. Be ready for eleven thirty in fact, I'll shower and change at the gym," he tells me before kissing me and Mr Quiet goodbye. We're then left alone, and I'll have no one to talk to for two and a half hours. Sigh. Putting away the plates I then go back to washing up, cleaning all of the utensils including the large knife I used to slice the bread with earlier. A large knife that I don't cover the sharp edge with well enough with the cloth, which ends up tearing right through and into my hand when I start to scrub it thoroughly.
"Arrgh, damnit!" I shout in pain as soon as I realise what I've done, the yellow cloth turning red quickly as I turn away from the sink and try to find a towel. Because my hand is wet it looks a thousand times worse than it probably is, and I don't want Dylan to see it and freak out. Too late, for him not to see it at least as he jumps out of his seat and runs around to where I'm standing, grabbing a hand towel en route.
"Wrap this around your hand and squeeze it. I know where the green bag is," Dylan says, making my eyes widen in delighted surprise through the pain I feel pulsating from my hand.
"So that's what it takes to make you talk again, me cutting my hand open? Don't get worried, it isn't so bad," I tell him as he opens one of the lower kitchen cupboards and brings out a little first aid kit, opening it up and then staring at it for a few seconds.
"It's an emergency, and I think you need this," he tells me, taking an antiseptic spray from the bag. I wonder whether to press the sudden talking issue, but instead just keep normal.
"Well I hope you keep it up, now I've finally heard you. As for the antiseptic, yes you're very right because that wasn't clean water I cut my hand in," I tell him, taking off the towel and examining my hand. I don't think it needs stitches luckily, but it is a little deep in two places. The rest thankfully is just a deep scratch. I dry it all off, further ruining the towel and then spray it with antiseptic while gritting my teeth. I then take a fresh wound dressing pad from its package and hold it to my cut palm while Dylan helps by carefully winding some tape around it to hold it in place, with me finishing the job off so I can get the tension right.
"There we go, all sorted," I tell him before standing and reaching for the rubber gloves in the big cleaning utensil jug by the side of the sink while Dylan tidies the first aid kit.
"No! I can do this!" he suddenly shouts, jumping up and snatching the gloves away, a stern look that is one hundred percent his father upon his face as he stares up at me.
"Okay, but let me get the sharp things out with my good hand first," I tell him in bargaining.
"Alright, that's probably best. Can't have two of us with knife wounds," he replies, making me snort with laughter and giggle as I pull the knives from the bowl. This is nice, a little voice coming from the little man again. I can't wait for Lee to come back and hear it.
"So how did you know how to look after me then? I must say, not all four year olds are quite so advanced in first aid," I ask him as I watch him move a chair out from the counter and then kneel on it to reach the sink.
"Marius cut his hand open on a glass one time when there was a party, and that's what mummy told him to do, squeeze a towel to stop it bleeding and then she fetched the green bag," he replies. That's the first time he's mentioned his mum as a memory, rather than just lamenting how sad he is without her and how much he misses her.
"That makes you one heck of a clever little boy, you know, to remember that," I praise him, stroking his hair with my good hand while I have the question I really want to ask him burning away, like I have caustic mouthwash in my mouth or something. It's right there and I want to spit it out, but should I? Will it possibly make him upset and clam up again? I suppose there's only one way to find out. I wait until our kitchen tidying and washing up duties are finished, and then after making him a hot chocolate and me another cup of coffee we go to sit on the sofa in the lounge.
"So then, Dylan, I know this might be a hard question for you to answer, but I really would love for you to try at least. Can you explain to me why you stopped talking to us all for as long as you did? You're not in any trouble at all, I have to add. I'm so happy you're talking again!" I tell him enthusiastically. I really don't want him to think he's in trouble because he absolutely isn't.
"I don't know," he says at first with a shrug, not meeting my eye. When he does look up I give him a big encouraging smile, hoping it'll be enough to urge him to continue. "I just felt really sad, and erm...yeah, really sad. I feel sad still because mummy died, but better." He then adds to me, thinking very hard I can tell by the little look of concentration on his face as he tries to articulate his feelings to me.
"I understand, sweetheart. Just so you know you can come and talk to me or daddy whenever you feel sad, you don't have to bottle it up and not talk to us, but I understand why you did and like I say, you're not in trouble. Do you understand me?" I ask him, getting my answer when he flies into my arms and gives me a massive hug.
"Yep, and can you take me to the park please? I want to go kick the footie around," he then asks, a request I oblige him with immediately by getting up to get us both bundled into warm coats and thick boots (wellies for Dylan) plus a scarf a piece too before I grab my keys, cigarettes and phone, he grabs the football and off we go. We've an hour and a half or just over to kill before his papa comes home anyway, and the park is literally a five minute walk around the corner from the apartment. It's only little, a small area with swings and a slide and the rest grass, which is perfect for us. I run around with him for a little while before giving up and going to sit on a nearby bench, keeping an eye on him while I have a cigarette. He runs around nonstop for about half an hour before coming back to me, arms open and a huge smile on his face. Oh, I have missed that, him being a happy and carefree child.
"I'm a lucky little boy," he tells me while I hoist him up onto my lap.
"Are you? Why is that?" I ask him, licking my thumb and cleaning off the few trails of mud he has on his cheeks.
"Because I have you, and all the other kids out there whose mummy died don't have you to help them like you help me," he replies so simply. He smiles at me and then kisses my cheek before climbing back down to the floor and setting off with his football again. His words, well I must admit, just made something up in my head click into place. What if other little kids out there suffering the same sadness and bewilderment in the wake of the death of a parent could have me too? My presence in his life certainly seems to have had a positive impact upon him, how many other children could I do the same for? With a loss over what to do when I finish my degree hanging over my head, with my one choice of trying to become a criminal profiler being a very hard one to achieve, I feel an idea forming here. I love children, I'm interested in psychology, so this could be another avenue I really should explore. Leaving a little early so I can get him changed into some clean clothes in replacement of the mud splattered ones, we head home and are both ready and waiting when his father comes through the door half an hour after we arrived back. I told Dylan to surprise him by not saying anything at first and then shouting something really loudly, and he doesn't fail me by running to his father and then screaming 'Hi dad!' right down his ear as soon as he's bundled up in his arms. I'm on the sofa absolutely pissing myself laughing.
"Oh, so we've decided to start shouting instead of talking?" Lee shouts back at him in a full on metal roar. Dylan loves it when he does that.
"Yeah!" he yells back at Lee before he's hugged tightly.
"When and why did he pipe up again? Also, what have you done to your hand?" Lee asks me as he walks further into the lounge, putting Dylan down and coming to give me a hug and kiss.
"They both tie in with each other. I cut my palm open on the bread knife while washing it, and Dylan came and looked after me, said he'd learned when watching his mum do the same when Marius cut his hand open at a party you were having," I reply as Lee turns and frowns in disbelief a little at his son.
"You remember that, mate? You were only three!" he exclaims.
"Yep, I remember the cake too, the one I wasn't allowed to have," Dylan replies.
"Space cake, one he saw about five minutes before he went to bed after a couple of friends had brought it in, and then he wouldn't go to bed because all he wanted was cake, so Carla had to go to the Texaco garage up the road and buy him a bloody muffin before he'd shut up and go to bed. Marius cut his hand open about a minute after she came back in. Poor mare, she had Dylan and his muffin, Marius and his hand and then me passed out on the couch to deal with that night," Lee says, laughing at the memory. Very quickly Carla's name has gone from a carefully if not unspoken word in the house to one to be remembered fondly. I like the fact Lee just smiled at a memory of her as well. He's been very bitter over her for so long, hating her so much for everything she did. It's good to see him soften to her memory a little.
It's true, she hadn't done a lot to be well liked in the last six months of her life, but I have a feeling that had she lived things would have worked out. I think she could have gotten used to me on a level to at least tolerate me until she fell out of love with Lee. Even though the last time I ever saw her she told me she was walking away, I knew she still loved him. I can't see how when she cheated on him with so many other men, but she did. I saw that clearly. I know he loved Carla a hell of a lot too. I saw some pictures of them together that I found in a draw in the kitchen of what was 'their' home in Surrey, and I could see it, how much he loved her once upon a time. I'm just glad that even though what they had ended sourly, he can now think about how she once was and smile. It's just sad she had to die for that to happen. After Lee has had a coffee we all head out again, going to the Christmas markets right near the centre of Berlin and have a brilliant day, eating far too much and spending way too much money on each other (well, Lee and I at least) before all coming home at about 6pm. Dylan has a bath and is in bed by 7pm, asleep by about three minutes past. First aid, football and market trawling with his dad and his Beth, he's had a busy day. We go sit outside and have a smoke and a drink, as usual not too much though since we have the little one to be responsible for. Well, Lee does, and makes that clear by pouring me measure after measure, while I tell him in finer detail what happened to make Dylan start talking again, and what he said to me when I took him out too.
"It's really made me think, what he said. I feel so flattered that he'd say that, that I have such an impact on him and helping him feel better when I really don't know what I've done," I tell Lee before taking a drag on the spliff.
"Promise you won't freak out or think that I'm assuming anything of you?" he says, making me wonder what he's going to come out with.
"Yeah, go on," I reply curiously.
"You've been what he needs, a mum. You'll never take Carla's place and I know that as much as you do, Dylan too, but you've been what he's needed. Even though he's been silent up until today, this afternoon is the happiest I've seen him in the last six weeks. I doubt he'd have come through this half as well if it wasn't for you. I wouldn't have either. You've kept me sane, and you're the only woman I've ever met in my whole life who has done that," he tells me, smiling a gorgeous big smile at me and squeezing my fingers before taking the spliff I pass him. I smile modestly at his words, blushing a little and picking up my drink to take a swig. Oh yes, this year is most definitely ending up a completely different shape to how it started for me. I never thought I'd become a mother figure of some small sorts to a little boy whose father I'm in a serious relationship with.
"So anyway, I was saying about it making me think," I begin, swinging back onto what I want to talk to him about. "Dylan said he thought he was lucky because he had me to help him, because all the other kids out there who've lost their mother don't have me, and well, I thought to myself 'what if they could?' What if I decided to go into child psychology and more specifically grief counselling? I think I'd be good at it, I seem to have made an impact on Dylan, I find the subject fascinating, psychology on a whole, and I absolutely love children." I say to him in suggestion.
"Well, it certainly won't hurt you to think about it for a while, will it?" he says to me. Think about I do, and think hard. I think over the wonderful Christmas period we enjoy together, and the New Year, the weeks that follow that and the tour of Russia that Dylan and I join him on come February. I think long and hard, until my decision is finally made over what I'm going to do with my future…
5 years later…
"Now, what was that someone said about not taking her work home with her?" Lee tells me, making me jump. I didn't hear him sneak up behind me at all, I'm too engrossed in the file I'm reading on the computer screen in my office at home.
"I know, I know babe but this case is a big one. The poor kid lost both her parents and her grandparents too; she was the sole survivor of the car crash that killed them all. Remember how Dylan went quiet after Carla died? Well she's done exactly the same, but she hasn't spoken a word for four months now. Poor thing is probably still too traumatised to speak. She's only five," I say with a sigh. No matter the fact that I've been doing this for two years now, I still feel so sad at each kid who walks through my office door. I did what I said I wanted to do five years ago, and went on after my degree to enter into the psychology field, specialising in grief counselling. I see teenagers sometimes too, but the vast majority of my patients are children under twelve.
"That's absolutely awful, to lose so many of her family and such a tender age. This'll be a tough job, won't it? One you're more that capable of handling though, I'll swiftly add," he replies while I close up the file and switch my computer off, deciding to leave it for tonight. I only got home two hours ago, and since then I've been a whirl of activity from house tidying to getting the kids fed and sorted. Oh yes, that's a change you don't know about as of yet, the fact that the word 'kid' is now pluralised in this house hold. I took a year out after I'd qualified because I had my own little person who needed my time, that person being our beautiful daughter Aiden who's just turned three. Aiden Louisa Bauer, aka the apple of our eye.
Oh, she's just so beautiful. We really thought she'd be born with red hair like me since it's the stronger gene allegedly, but when she came out after an agonising fifty eight hour labour (I've never been so tired in my entire life) she had a mass of black hair, just like her dad. I was so glad he was there when she was born as well, but it was a very close call. When I went into labour three days early he was still in Japan on tour, but since little miss decided to take her sweet time coming out he was home within forty eight hours and at my side at the hospital taking over from Joanie straight from the plane. I have to commend him there, he saw me right through that labour on zero hours of sleep. Even when I managed to nod off occasionally he always stayed awake. It's been very hard, raising two children with your husband on tour so much, but his career within the band got so big that he could dictate when and for how long he wanted to tour, especially since two other members have also become father's in the time between now and five years ago. Marius is married to a lovely French girl called Coralie, and they have a two year old daughter called Sophia. He settled down after all, it just wasn't with Joanie. I can't deny I pinned a few hopes on them getting together, but when she left Germany just before Christmas five years ago that was the last time she'd spend any kind of time with him, in a sexual sense that is. They're still great friends though, Marius says she'll always be counted as one of his best friends, and Coralie loves her to pieces too. Darren and Kim have also been blessed with the arrival of Lewis, their four year old son. Oh, hold on, I have to back pedal a little here, don't I? Yes, you read right when I used the word husband to refer to Lee. We got married five months after Aiden was born, and we couldn't be happier.
We weren't going to do it, it wasn't something we felt we needed really (and Lee did always say he'd never marry again after all that mess with Carla) but there was a certain person who just kept nagging and nagging, and then nagging some more. 'Dad, when are you and mum going to get married?' was the line fed to us by our eldest, Dylan. Yes, he doesn't call me Beth any longer and hasn't since he was about six. He is also legally my son as well now since I adopted him for a surprise seventh birthday present for him, so it'd be all official. Make no mistake, he knows that Carla is still is mum, but he looks at it in a different way. 'I'll never forget my real mum, but to be honest I only have a few memories of her. All my memories that revolve around the word 'mum' come from you, because in a way you're the only mother I've ever really known' he told me one day. He still treasures the memory of Carla, much like we all do. After she died as I noted back then Lee did soften to her, even more so when we discovered the cause of her death. It was so, so tragic, because as the toxicology tests revealed she'd had a severe allergic reaction to the sleeping pills she'd taken, some ingredient within them that caused the fluke accident that was her death from heart failure. She didn't intentionally die by her own hand; she died because of the reaction to one tiny element to the new pills she'd taken that night. The cocaine and booze that were found in her system weren't even enough to be a contributing factor to her death whatsoever.
"Mum, it's gone again. The light won't stop blinking," Dylan says to me as Lee and I enter the kitchen, watching our eldest giving the coffee machine a few taps. We decided to move our permanent base back to Surrey, and we've expanded it too, another extension onto the side of the house that makes up one hell of a large recording studio, the other one we had previously now being my office and the other half remaining as Lee's man cave, which it sort of already was. The small studio was gutted and the equipment moved into the new one. That exact part is now where I work from, when I'm at home, even though I always said I never would. Oops.
"I think the wire has gone, you trying to make yourself some hot milk, mate?" I ask Dylan in reply as I head over to the machine and just switch it off, slapping his hand when he sticks his middle finger up at it. He's his father's son alright. I still can't believe he's nine. Nine years old and he's nearly as tall as me. Yes, he's definitely his father's son in that respect too. He's going to be massively tall, just like his old man.
"Yeah, I was trying to. Ahhh well, saucepan time," he replies, moving to fetch that very item from the cupboard. I take over for him since he has a habit of making a mess, and then let him go and watch another half an hour of TV before he heads to bed. Aiden was asleep at the kitchen table before she'd even finished her dinner. I was a very swift moving mummy earlier, grabbing her quickly before she planted her face into her dinner bowl and then picking her up to take her to bed. She always goes to bed when she's told, but getting her up of a morning is a different matter entirely. That's when she demonstrates to me that as well as his black hair and his green eyes, she's inherited her father's lungs as well. She screams so loudly you could probably hear it from the next village over. She's not a morning person. Speaking of Lee and his screaming, that's something spoken about in past tense now since just over two years ago, and after seventeen years, Solitaire Rising called it a day and disbanded. It was all on mutual and friendly terms, but with all but two members becoming fathers it became quite difficult. Also, they felt they'd gone as far as they could together and with their last two albums had massive, massive success, so after releasing a 'best of' compilation and touring the world with that, the curtain fell on the brilliant band they were for the last time. They did a reform for a festival earlier this year, and they plan on doing so every once in a while, but as a full time recording and touring band they're done with for good. Mind you, Black Sabbath said that too…
Lee still works within the industry, making his name as a music producer and based here in Surrey. The extension with the massive studio is where he works his magic, and so far has been successful with the albums he's produced, collaborating with old friends and new. He produced the first album by the UK metal group Spindleback, who are Jim's new band. He and Tiffany sadly didn't go the distance, breaking up about thirteen months ago right in the middle of him and the guys recording 'Minus Earth', which was the album I just told you about that Lee worked as producer on, even lending his vocals in backing to a couple of tracks. As for the other guys, Darren now works in a not entirely different field, but different for him as the editor of a new monthly metal music magazine he's trying to get off the ground. Jim and Marius are still involved in music, Jim obviously with Spindleback and Marius mostly doing session bass work, as well as a few mini projects of his own. Hank however is so busy with this project and that, that's it's hard to tie him down for five minutes. He's toured with other recognised and big names as a touring drummer since the Solitaire Rising split, working with some really notable musicians, and also done a few small band projects himself as well. What he's really trying to focus on at present is building a name for himself in the photography world. That's what takes him away from Berlin for anything up to eleven months a year. He's still nomadic, and yes, he's still a man whore. I doubt Hank will ever settle down with just one woman ever again. He's happy though, which is all that matters. He came to see us about three months ago, and it was lovely to see him. The kids wouldn't leave him alone from the moment he burst through the door to the time he left. He's still totally larger than life.
As for my family, well my sister and her husband Pete just welcomed their third child recently, a second daughter they named Penny who is about nine weeks old now. My mother continues to be sober and happy, especially since she met Paul, the man who is now my brand new stepfather. He's awesome. They both met while working at Sainsbury's, and now funnily enough considering her history with the drink, they run a little pub together in Camden. Still though, she hasn't touched a drop of alcohol in over five years, and never will again. She says the states she sees the punters in of a weekend continue to put her off reaching for a glass herself. I can't blame her. As for my dad, well he finally came around to the idea of me and Lee being together, and he couldn't be happier for us. He was very proud, the day he gave me away. As for my lovely Joanie, she's doing great. After deciding she was getting a little too old to be a groupie she stopped following tours and decided to build a business and a life for herself, some solid roots too. She runs a retro dress shop about a three minute walk from mum and Paul's pub! I've never seen her so happy, and just like Marius did too she settled down with someone as well. She and her boyfriend Mark have been together for two and a half years. We see each other every Sunday when she comes up to us for lunch and a day where all she has to worry about is dividing her attention equally between Dylan and Aiden. Even though Lee and I are not religious and didn't have either of the kids christened (he and Carla never bothered with Dylan, much to Irene's chagrin) we wanted Aiden to have godparents. Joanie cried when we asked her to be godmother.
Ahhhh, Irene. There's a name that deserves a mention, just about. After perusing the custody case against Lee, and failing, she was a thorn in our sides for a very, very long time. She went wild when I adopted Dylan, absolutely crazy. She of course thought I was trying to replace Carla, and no matter how many times we (and Dylan himself) tried to explain otherwise to her it was all still met with anger and resentment. In the last two years though I'm very happy to say she's calmed down a lot and mellowed out. Don finally got through to her. He's an absolute saint, that man. In fact things are so smoothed over between us that I can even take Dylan over to Dublin by myself now when he goes to stay with his grandparents, and actually receive a hug and a kiss from Irene before she ushers me in for cake and coffee, rather than a barrage of abuse. It's nice, all very, very nice. Aiden even calls her 'Nanty Irene', which is kind of like a mix of nan and aunt, and even though Irene is neither she adores my daughter. Yes, everything is much different to how it was five years ago, but everything is lovely. This life, well it's still what I didn't expect, but would I change it? Would I hell as like! I have everything I've ever wanted, a good career, a wonderful husband, two beautiful homes (we still have the apartment in Berlin we go and stay at in school holidays, when work allows us to that is) and two gorgeous children, even though one of them isn't mine by birth, he's still my son.
"Beth, look at this, you're not going to believe what I've just found. If the security light hadn't have come on I wouldn't have seen it at all," Lee tells me after Dylan has gone to bed, while we're standing out in the courtyard having a cigarette each.
"What the hell, oh my god as if that's just turned up!" I exclaim as he carefully passes me an earring I had previously believed was gone forever. I lost the small glittery silver hoop five years ago when I very first came to stay here with him, in my haste to leave the house to go to work when Carla was driving us both crazy by refusing to leave, or grant Lee a divorce at the time. I remember this earring, because Lee brought them for me as a surprise present on the day we got together properly and told each of our love for the other, that time I flew to Sweden and surprised him.
"I remember your face when you found them at the bottom of your shopping bags when we got back to the hotel, and then you crying at the card I'd put in there with them too," he tells me, wrapping me up in a hug and kissing my head.
"I'll never forget what it said either. 'New sparkly things for the woman who brought a new sparkle to my life', you massive romantic," I tell him through my laughter.
"You still do, you know, bring sparkle to my life," he tells me, mouthing 'I love you' before kissing me again.
"Good. Oh and speaking of sparkles, I think I might want to see how easy it is to strip seductively out of that new glittery underwear set I brought from Joanie last week. Not too tired, are you?" I ask him.
"I'll go put up your pole, meet me in the bedroom in ten minutes." He tells me with enthusiasm, and his trademark dirty laugh. Oh yes, when Beth Alban died and gave way to Beth Bauer, PhD, the pole dancer survived still. She only performs for one person now though, and that's her adoring husband.