Chapter Two

A proposal! At last!

As Yasmine opens the door to the flat, she again makes a mental note to get the squeaky hinge fixed. It's not often she's late home, therefore, her mental notes usually go forgotten.

This time, though, she finds the lights on and Debbie wrapped in her blanket watching repeats of some crime drama people forgot existed. At the sound of the door creaking, Debbie looks up and smiles a little. Yasmine gives a forced one back knowing it's never a good sign when Debbie is up late. Both connected rather well as a result of being proud Nana's who like to have their cup of chamomile before bed at nine unless Lewis is on.

Yasmine decides to state the obvious:

"You're up."

"Way to state the obvious," Debbie says back, turning off the television. "I wanted to talk…didn't know you'd be back this late."

Neither did Yasmine but she isn't the kind to complain about other peoples lack of commitment to time keeping.

"Sorry." she says anyway.

"Luv, it's fine. You okay to talk now or are you just hanging out for bed?"

After five hours having to entertain a four and six-year-old, Yasmine is desperately hanging out for bed, but the look on Debbie's face has her knowing perfectly well that she'll just be spending the night staring at the ceiling, letting her over-active imagination run wild with idea's as to what could be about to happen. She'd successfully managed to not think about the 'flat meeting' until now.

"No, it's fine. I'll stay up. No bad news, I hope."

"Well…it depends," Debbie says with an unsure expression on her usually heavily made up face. "The good news is…Clarence proposed."

Yasmine smiles at this and hugs her flatmate/boss/friend in support. Behind the smile, though, she knows what this means.

Moving out.

Despite knowing this, she keeps a smile on her face for her friend.

"Congratulations! You said yes, I gather?"

"I did, yes…um…" Debbie looks down. "The thing is, Jazz and I hate doing this to you but…"

"I have to move out." Jazz finishes putting a brave smile on.

"Well, yes but…we're moving to Scotland. Clarence got a job there and I've been offered one myself sooo…" Debbie looks down, biting her bottom lip. A heavy anvil of realization hits Yasmine making her face drop.

"Oh." she says.

"I feel really bad and I'll give you references of course…anything you need. I'll even pay half of your rent here so you can find a place and save up and…I feel really bad."

Yasmine attempts to pull her face back to one that looks not quite as devastated but instead it ends up looking like she has a mouthful of her mothers claggy, thick fruit cake she's forced to pretend to like.

"It's fine Debbie, I mean…it's not your fault. I'll find something and somewhere." This statement isn't said as confidently as Yasmine had hoped as she knows jobs are almost harder to find than decent reasonably priced flats. "You shouldn't feel bad. We should be celebrating." Yasmine decides to attempt a smile again- it even almost comes across as sincere. 'Celebrate…' she thinks, 'celebrate what exactly? The end of a good flat, a good friend and a much-needed job'

Yasmine claps her hands together in fake glee.

"Shall I pull out some bubbles?" she asks looking away from Debbie's doubtful gaze.

"You're taking this all very well, Jazz- considering I'm being such a horrid friend leaving you in the lurch like this."

The word lurch scares Yasmine and she swallowed down the panic.

"It's okay, really. Marriage is a nice thing…apparently. I mean, there will be plenty of time for me to find something, right?"

"Uhhhh…well, we have to be gone in two weeks." Debbie breaks as gently as possible.

Luckily for Yasmine the open cabinet door hides her mortified expression from Debbie.

"Two Weeks?" she hissed at the bottle of bubbles before grabbing hold of it much like one would grab hold of a chicken's neck before wringing it. Debbie edges toward Yasmine warily.

"I'm a monster, I know. I don't blame you if you want to disown me as a friend. I'll help you look for a flat and a job if you like."

"No, no." Yasmine waves a dismissive hand- a dismissive hand that was clenched with frustration a moment before. "You have lots to deal with. . . packing…wedding stuff. I'll be fine. Don't you worry about me." she again attempts a smile. With the frown and clenched teeth, it isn't successful.

"I'm so sorry," Debbie adds, prying the bottle out of Yasmine's death like grip.

"Stop apologizing. I'm happy for you!"

Yasmine isn't lying about this. Clarence is lovely and the two of them suit each other very well. Debbie is close to her 40's and has been looking for Mr. Right for a while. She deserves this. Yasmine is not so selfish as to not recognize this is a happy thing. She's happy for Debbie…she's just not exactly happy for herself.

"I think I might go to bed." Yasmine says, "We'll celebrate tomorrow, yeah?"

Debbie nods slowly, looking at her flatmate/work colleague/friend with a worried expression.

"Yeah…we'll talk tomorrow."

"Definitely! Just super tired you know." Yasmine fakes a yawn and backs towards her bedroom, "Been a full on day of little children so… I'll just find Ghana and curl up with him."

Debbie's face drops giving Yasmine a feeling in the pit of her stomach that another bomb is about to be dropped.

"Uhhhh, sweetie, about Ghana. . ." Debbie starts gently.

Slamming her head hard against Arjen's thick woolen jumper, Yasmine lets out a groan.

"I don't want to move back home. I like my flat. I like my job. Jobs and decent flats are two things in short supply in Northampton second and third after men and non-suicidal cats."

Not feeling qualified enough to comfort with words, Arjen just taps the top of the emotional woman's head, feeling sorry for her. He struggles just working with her parents. He can't imagine how bad it would be actually living with them. "What do I do?" she sniffs.

"Stop sulking. It doesn't go with your outfit." he says stepping away from her and grabbing a box of tissues, "Leave pessimism to me."

Yasmine takes a tissue and blows her nose.

"Two weeks, though." she sulks, leaning on the table. Arjen sits at down and adjusts his glasses.

"You'll find something."

"Promise?" she asks in a tone so pathetic even she cringes. Arjen looks down and scratches the corner of the table in a serious stupor.

"I tend not to make promises I'm not sure I can keep." he replies quietly.

With a final sniff and a wipe of the nose, Yasmine wonders where this statement sprouted from. Some of the stories about his past she used to conjure up in the days of her having a mini-crush on him come back to mind. She imagines some terribly romantic, heartbreaking event worthy of a Nicolas Sparks novel must have happened back in Holland. She dare not ask, though. The one "you should find a nice girl" comment she's said to him got her nothing but a dark, dirty look and a cold shoulder for the rest of the week.

"I'll put the word out." Arjen interrupts Yasmine's thoughts about how to turn his untold story into a multi-million dollar blockbuster.

"To who?"

"I do have friends," he states plainly. Yasmine seems delighted at this.

"Who?" she asks perching herself onto the table and swinging her pink boots above the carpet. Arjen stands up and shakes his head, deciding instead to go to a customer. Arjen likes to keep his private life as just that: private. He's been successful in this feat so far and he's planning on keeping it that way. Such things as hobbies, friends, where he lives and what brought him to England are not mentioned by him which just means people like Yasmine over-speculate and people like Linda conjure up engagements.

"You'll be fine, love."

The voice of Yasmine's father comes as a fright and she lets out a squeal, holding up a piece of paper in front of her as a form of protection. What kind of protection it would provide clearly doesn't occur to her. Seeing her father come out from amongst the array of furniture, Yasmine gives an embarrassed smile and puts the piece of paper down.

"You heard all that Daddy?" she asks, presenting a kiss on his forehead. With his thick hair that's doing anything but graying or thinning, Branson looks nothing like the sixty-seven-year-old he is. Despite this, he decides to act it. The second Mr. and Mrs. Ellsworth hit sixty, they decided to act like senior citizens. Linda complains about arthritis she doesn't have and Branson complains about the old brain not being what it used to be.

"You know your room is still free and you'd be no burden to have back. . . and there's always work here."

"Thanks, dad," she mumbles to her shoes. Living and working with her parents…great.

"Hay now lovey….chin up. You can decorate the room how you like, and we'll even get you a cat if it will make you feel more at home."

He gives her a little tap on her cheek and shuffles off.

Yasmine sighs at this, imagining the re-start of Sunday smiley face pancakes and Thursday night Antiques Road Show marathons all over again. Things she thought she had successfully disconnected herself from. She even did a ceremonial burning of the Tenth Anniversary Antiques Road Show T-shirt she was forced to wear every Thursday night.

What if they buy her another one?

Will she be expected to slot back into the life she lived the last time she was here?

Won't it be worse now they've both consecutively decided to be old?

Maybe this means they'll recognize her as an adult instead of a child, though.

She has been out in the working world for a few years so maybe it will be different and who knows? Arjen may be right- there may be a chance she'll find work before she has to resort to moving back in with the olds.

Buzzing with renewed enthusiasm and deciding to take up Arjen's idea to stay positive, Yasmine swings her feet and jumps off the table.

With a crunch of a thousand cereal packets and a screech last heard in the deep Amazonian jungle, Yasmine finds herself crumpled in a heap on the floor.

Within seconds, Branson and Arjen are at her side.

"Are you okay, lovey? Can you stand?" her father asks. After a few failed attempts at trying to put pressure on her foot, Arjen helps Yasmine to a seat and sits her in it.

"Might want to see a doctor. Doesn't look good, though..." he says kneeling in front of her.

With somber resignation that her ankle perhaps isn't the only thing that's crushed, Yasmine starts to quietly cry to herself.

This is about the time Linda comes down the stairs. She pauses at the sight: Yasmine sitting down in tears and Arjen knelt in front of her.

"At last!" Linda gasps in delight, clasping her hands together. "A proposal! After all the on's and off's, I was beginning to wonder if you two were even engaged!"