Meet the Boyfriend
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Becky’s bringing the boyfriend home.

I worry about her. Well, I would, wouldn’t I? The only granddaughter I’ve got. The apple of my eye.

She sends me letters once a week, every week. “Dear Granddad,” then she tells me all she’s done: lectures, professors, what she had for dinner, why her best friend, Mary, thinks the greatest mathematicians are all musicians.

“But I’m really bad at music, Granddad, so I guess I’ll never be more than mediocre.”

The letters began to change this year. Only one every two weeks now, and it’s all where “we” met, which restaurant “we” went to, which film “we” saw. She was one of many before, with all those college friends, but now she’s only two. “Dave and me.” “Me and Dave.” I guess this Dave’s the other half of Beck, and now she’s bringing him home.

  
 
I look at the clock because I’m sure her train must be due, and her dad’s picking her up—picking them both up, I suppose. But it’s like the hands have frozen into place. Can I hear it tick? Did I wind it up last night?

Then I look into the kitchen, and Jess is there, making sandwiches for tea and laying them out on the best plates.
“Can I help?”

“Oh no, Dad. You just sit down.”

“I’ve been sitting down,” I complain.

Suddenly Jess catches my eye. I can see she’s as scared as I am. Our Becky—our little Beck—she’s bringing her boyfriend back, and the world’s threatening to fall apart.

We’re still standing in the kitchen now, me and Jess, with our arms round each other, our hearts beating together. The sandwiches are only half laid out. The cake’s still cooling in its tin. Then we hear the car.

“Good heavens. I haven’t put the kettle on yet.”

“Let me help,” I offer again. But my hands are shaking, and the water splashes, making a puddle on the floor. Jess bends to mop it up. I feel so foolish. Then the key turns in the door.

“Ah Becky, Dave. So good to see you,” says Jess, jumping up, all smiles. It’s that brittle smile I catch just before she turns away. I remember it from when she was a kid. The “Don’t shout at me” smile, that says “It’s not my fault.” Poor little Jess.

I stand behind her as if I’m hiding, taking the sodden floor-cloth to free her hands, tossing it to the sink. I smile too now—seems like it’s the thing to do—and my cheeks feel stupidly frozen.

Becky’s dad, he’s there behind the two of them like a dog that’s run a mile and brought back the stick that you’d hoped would stay lost. He looks so helpless and confused.

Dave steps forward and shakes Jess’s hand, pumping enthusiastically. And now he’s pushing past her toward me. I suddenly realize I’m supposed to take the limp fingers that he’s holding out, and our thumbnails bump. My hands are still damp.

“Nice to meet you, Dave,” I stammer, and he looks blank. “Good journey?” Then he smiles.

“Tea’s ready in the living room,” says Jess. “Why don’t we go through?”

So Becky takes Dave’s hand in hers while he nods and smiles again, and we all sit down.

After a while, I decide I might like Dave. He has a good ear; he listens well and looks you in the eye. He meets your gaze like he’s got nothing to hide. And he says “Yes” a lot, but you can’t hold that against him; an agreeable sort. I tell him stories about Becky, how she grew up, about life on the moors and the way things change. And then I ask him—I know I’m meant to know but I’ve forgotten—I ask where he’s from.

“Yes,” says Dave, nodding his head again. Well, “Yays,” is what it sounds like.

Sweet Becky’s leaning across his plate and trying to answer for him. But it hits me like a ton of bricks, or a wet floor-cloth between the eyes. Poor lad; he hasn’t understood a word I’ve said, him talking with his posh TV accent and me with my brogue.

Still, he does smile a lot, this David does, and he makes our Becky smile. She looks like my sweet Alice from long ago. I remember the days when I was courting, and then I remember Jess and the look of adoration in her eyes, back in the day. So, “Yes,” I nod my everything’s-all-right smile in Becky’s direction. I guess he’ll do.

She’s brought the boyfriend home, and it’s okay.



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