Eric never thought for a moment that he would have to do what his brother asked of him. Having them stay with love with, had not been what his brother meant. He had asked him to be there for her, if she needed help. Then again, he had not mentioned to any of them that he was still married to Glenda, a woman he did not like one bit.
He recalled their wedding; she wore a short low cut white dress.
Glenda was not traditionally pretty, but she had looked attractive to him, she was all boobs and legs, he had spent many hours fantasising about her. He was after all only twelve when he watched her walk down the aisle to marry his brother. It was not his fault, the dress left nothing to the imagination. He shuddered at the thought.
For the first year of their marriage, Eric spent as much time as he could at their house. Inviting himself for tea, all so he could watch her in her skimpy outfits. Eric grew out of it by the time he was thirteen, when he met Harriet. She joined the school the following month, and by then his hormones were taken down a different path. Sharing his first kiss with her six weeks later, but once the kiss was over, she moved onto the next boy who caught her attention. The he being Eric’s best friend, and then another boy after that. He had worried for months that he was a bad kisser, but it seemed she just liked male attention. No one was surprised when she announced she was pregnant at fifteen.
By then, Eric had met Tiffany, they dated her for a year, she was his first, and although their relationship did not last, he did not regret it.
He pushed the thoughts of the past behind him, sat in his bedroom, knowing that Amy slept in the office on his small sofa. It did not sit well with him. He was not sure how long they would be staying with him, but he could not allow her to sleep on it for many more nights. She was right of course, he was far too tall to sleep on it himself, and sharing his bed, was out of the question. It was practical but he knew that he it was not right, even if he had thought about it, he would never suggest it.
Eric opened his laptop and scoured the pages; he had a plan to replace the sofa with a sofa bed. It would be practical and perfect. He selected one he liked, and clicked on it, but before he knew it, he was opening a second browser, looking at bigger properties, a room each for the girls. He snapped the lid shut, what was he doing? This was tempory, this was not his family. He tried to reason with his thoughts about why he was thinking about a bigger home? Was his mind on helping take care of them? Finding them a new home, for just them? That had to be it, he told himself as he laid back on his bed and placed his arms behind his head and closed his eyes.
The next day, Amy was in the kitchen, the girls bickered as they sat at the table as Eric walked in and found her looking tired, she placed a pancake on a plate and put it before her daughter.
“No, Mum it’s not right, Daddy always…”
“Jane, it’s a pancake, just eat it, and Daddy never cooked them for you, I did, now stop it, or you won’t get any at all.”
“Jane,” Amy snapped.
Jane folded her arms across her chest and sulked.
“Go without then,” Amy said as she removed the plate and slammed it down on the side. It broke; she kept her back to her daughter, as the tears fell down her cheek.
“Jane, why don’t you take your sister and finish getting ready for school.”
“Jane, please. Do as I ask, and if you do I will drive you two to school, and if you hurry we can get something to eat on the way.”
“On the way, really?”
Eric nodded and ushered the two girls from the room, closing the door behind them. He walked across the room to where Amy stood; he could tell she was sobbing from the way she stood. He turned her to face him and pulled her into his arms and held her, allowing her to cry. She tried to apologise, but he shushed her.
“Don’t you dare. Why don’t you take a long hot soak in the tub while I run the girls to school, and on my way back I will pick us up some breakfast.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just so hard. They don’t understand why we are here, or why he died, hell I don’t get it, I don’t. It’s all just a mess.”
“I know they don’t, I don’t understand it either, if I am honest.” He let her go and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “We will talk about what you should do next when I get back, okay?.”
“Next, I need to get to work, if I don’t, I won’t have a job to go to. I mean I can’t just expect you to take care of us. There is so much to sort out; we need a home, a home of our own.”
“Yes, I guess you do, but as I said this is your home for as long as you want it to be.”
“Thank you, but it’s not our home, it’s yours. I need to find a place that will be our home, one that I know will feel like home. I just don’t know if I will find the one that has that feeling, because I have to come to terms with the fact that Glenda will never give me back our family home, and if I am honest now she is living in it, I don’t want it.”
“Okay, you are right. Will you be here when I get back?”
“No, I should arrive on time, or early if I can.”
“Do you even like the job?”
“No, not really. Tom thought it was good for me to work for a few hours to get out of the house, pocket money he called it.”
“Pocket money, will that be enough to pay bills and a mortgage or rent?”
“No, of course not. I will have to go to the council, as I am after all homeless.”
“You are not homeless, not technically.”
“No, but in the sense that woman has my house. Anyway whatever happens I will need more income, so I will have to ask for more hours, or find a job that will pay me more.”
“I have to, I have no choice.”
He opened his mouth to speak, as the girls appeared ready for school, Jane tugged on Eric’s trouser leg, and insisted they go now. He looked down at her.
“What about your hair, should we not brush it, at least?”
She nodded and ran off, returning with a brush. He brushed both girls hair, before leaving.
They left five minutes later.
Amy cleared the kitchen, dressed for work, and then climbed into her car; she placed the key in the ignition and turned the key, nothing, she tried again and again. Slamming her hands against the car steering wheel she screamed at the top of her lungs. Of all days for her car to fail her, it had to be today. If she rang them to say she would be late, would they believe her? She pulled out her phone, dialled the number, as she climbed out of the car and kicked the door shut. Her boss answered after two rings.
She explained about her car and that she would get the bus, but before she could say another word, her boss told her over the phone, she was fired.
“You can’t fire me, you…” he cut her off, and told her, he could, the paperwork was done. He was laying her off. Her job was no longer available; she would receive a small payment as a redundancy package. She leant against the car door and slid down it. Her world was crumbling around her, she felt defeated.
She heard his car arrive, but she did not move. He walked to the house; she watched the door open and close and heard him call her name. She stood, wiped her face and walked to the house as the door opened and stood in the door way.
“Amy, what happened?”
“The car wouldn’t start.”
“I don’t understand, it always started first time.”
“I will have it looked at, if not I’ll buy you a new one,” he said.
“No, you won’t, I can’t pay you back, I’ve just lost my job.”
“Because you were going to be late?”
“No, I think they had already decided. I have a feeling that they realised my role was not needed anymore since I had not been there. Why pay me when they don’t need me.”
“That is awful, I am sorry,” he said. “I have an idea that may help you out for now.”
“I do, you could work for me.”
“Work for you?”
“Sure, it’s a win win situation. I planned to advertise for a new secretary, my old one is retiring after Christmas. So if you fancy it, you would be doing me a favour.”
“Are you sure, because I don’t even know what you do?”
“No, I know Tom ran the family business, but was not sure if you were part of it too.”
“I am, when he died, he left me his half of the company. Anyway, why don’t you come in with me today. I have taken time off myself. I need to get back to work too, it won’t run itself.”
“I guess not. I never knew you worked with him. There is so much of his life I had no idea about.”
“He liked to keep it separate, I don’t know why, but he did.” Eric handed her a mug of coffee. “I can take you there today, show you around, and don’t worry, Glenda has no hand in the company, I have made sure of that. First I will get your car picked up, and then we can go.”
He ordered her to go fix her make-up, which she did. As Amy looked in the mirror, she realised how much of a mess she looked; she cleaned her face, and re-applied her make-up. It was not the loss of the job, but how she would manage. She could only imagine herself affording a tiny flat, but if they had a roof over their head, it would do. She had no choice, after all would the council even re-home them; she knew it was a long shot.
She stared at her reflection. She knew nothing of the man she married, the man who had given her two beautiful girls. Even if right now they were not their usual selves, she understood why the girls misbehaved.