Joe sat at his mother’s dinner table poking his dinner with his fork. Jessica put her hand under the table and gave his knee a reassuring squeeze. They both looked at each other.
“Joe, are you coming down sick with something? You’ve hardly touched your Sunday Lunch. Jessica has nearly eaten all hers.”
“Go, on Joe, tell your Mum.” Said Jessica.
“Tell me what, Joe?”
“Well, Mum, I was going to talk to you a while back but could not find the right time to do it.”
“What is it Joe?”
“Jessica and I are getting married.”
“What, after five years of living together? That’s fantastic Joe. Isn’t that wonderful, Arthur? Come on, say something Arthur.”
“Yes, Mary,” said Arthur, “I think that’s great. You’re not pregnant are you Jessica?”
Jessica laughed, “No Mr. Thorpe, I’m not pregnant.”
“Then I can’t see the need to get married as you both look very happy as you are.”
“Well, it’s like this, Dad. We’ve decided to move to Australia. We’ve both got jobs to go to and a home waiting for us, but we need to be married. We’re actually planning on getting married when we reach Australia.”
The colour drained from Arthur’s face as his jaw dropped.
“You’re what?” said Mary. “You’re getting married in Australia? Well, how on earth can your dad and I watch you get married if you’re miles away?”
“It’s okay Mum, we were hoping you and Dad would come out there to our wedding and visit our new home.”
Arthur’s hands began to tremble as he stood up forcing his chair to collide with the coffee table, which sent a vase of flowers crashing to the floor.
“Arthur, what on earth are you doing? Look at that mess you’ve made.” Said Mary.
“Not such a mess as I’ll make of his face when I get hold of him.” Said Arthur, his cheeks now flushed with rage.
“Now don’t be like that Arthur, the boy’s entitled to live his own life.”
“And what about my life?” Said Arthur. “I’ve spent an entire life-time building up the family business and now he wants to go and throw it all away for some thin-brained idea of a better life in another country. How ungrateful can you get?”
“Dad! It’s not like that. It’s not like that at all. Jessica and I want our own lives. We’ve both got our own interests. You know I’ve never been any good with my hands and building other people’s kitchens.”
“No, but you can try. All you ever think about is yourself and your dumb ideas of sitting on your arse and working computers.”
“Oh Arthur, leave the boy alone. You know he’s good at computers and he’s got a high-flying job. He never did like working with his hands, as he says. He uses his brain.”
“Oh, and I don’t. I can see you’re on his side. Well, the lot of you can go to hell. I want nothing more to do with any of you.” Said Arthur as he slammed the dining room door and stomped into the kitchen followed by a tutting Mary.”
“Come on Jessica, we might as well go home. I’m not going to sit here and listen to those two arguing about me in the kitchen. Now you can see why I left home so young and why I was so keen for us to move in together.” Said Joe.
“Wait, Joe. We need to make peace with them. No doubt it’s been a bit of a shock. We should have told them sooner and not just blurted it all out over Sunday lunch.” Said Jessica.
“Oh, so it’s all my fault now is it?” said Joe.
“No, it’s not your fault and I didn’t mean that. I just want you and your dad to get on, that’s all.” Said Jessica.
“Well, I don’t think we’ll ever get on. We never have and we never will. Dad could never bear it if I didn’t step into his shoes and carry on the family business. I hate kitchens and working with them and I cannot stand working with Dad either, we just don’t get on and that’s that.” Said Joe.
“I think it best if we leave things to settle Joe. Let’s tidy up and go home.” Said Jessica.
“I guess you’re right. I’ve really gone off my dinner now anyway.”
Joe and Jessica began to stack the plates and tidy up the dining room table. Jessica picked the flowers up off the floor while Joe gathered the broken pieces of glass onto a plate and took them out to the dustbin via the front door. As Joe passed the kitchen window the sight of his father, head in hands, being cuddled by his mother only made him feel even more angry than before.
Once, back inside he said, “Come on Jessica, we’re definitely going home. Dad will never come around to my way of thinking. All he ever wanted was for me to inherit the family business. I’ve never been interested in building things. I’m a techie and always have been. I love working with computers, I love my job.” Said Joe.
“Yes, Joe, I know. Stop fussing about it. I’m sure they’ll come around sooner or later,” said Jessica.
“Well, it had better be sooner rather than later,” said Joe, “We’re going to Australia and that’s that.”
Joe stepped out into hallway and took his coat from the hook, then helped Jessica on with hers.”
“Bye, Mum. Thanks for the dinner, it was lovely. Sorry, but we’ve got to go now. I’ll phone you both tomorrow. Bye Dad.”
Not a sound came from behind the closed kitchen door.
“Can you drive back Jessica? I don’t feel much up to it. I’ll probably do it all wrong. I do everything wrong.” Said Joe.
“No, you don’t,” Said Jessica as she turned on the ignition. “Look your parents will come around to our way of thinking in next to no time. I’m sure of it.”
“Well, I just hope you’re right, that’s all.” Said Joe as he rubbed his face with his hands. “We’ve still got a lot of planning to do and I’m not letting him change my mind.”
Jessica could see how angry Joe was getting and was glad she was the one driving. No need for any more accidents today.
The following day Joe heard nothing from his parents, no phone calls, nothing. Each time he looked at his phone seething anger rose within him once more. His head was filled with arguments with his dad about why he should be going to Australia and why he wanted nothing to do with the family business.
A week had gone by and there was still no word from either parent. No-one was going to give in.
“Why don’t you answer your phone Joe? Your mum has been ringing you all afternoon.” Said Jessica.
“Because I don’t want to argue, that’s why.” Said Joe.
“Maybe it’s important, she must have rung at least six times.” Said Jessica as she picked up Joe’s phone and pointed it at him.
Joe hesitantly took the phone and stood staring at it. Then it rang again.
“Yes Mum.” Said Joe.
“Joe, thank goodness you’ve answered at last.” Said Mary.
“What’s up Mum? You and Dad changed your minds at last?” Said Joe.
“No, Joe. Your Dad has been taken very poorly.” Mary could hardly get the words out. “He passed away a few minutes ago from a heart attack. I’m at the hospital now.”
Joe slumped down to the floor and dropped his phone in his lap.
“What’s up Joe?” Said Jessica.
“Dad’s died. Mum’s at the hospital with him now.” Said Joe as he wiped tears from his face.
Jessica took the phone and spoke to Mary, “Shall we come over?”
“No, that’s all right. I’ve got everything sorted and my neighbour is very kindly helping me. Tell Joe I love him and I’m okay about the pair of you getting married and leaving me here alone and going to Australia. Bye.” The phone went dead.
“You’re Mum doesn’t need us at the hospital Joe, and she gives you her blessing about Australia.” Said Jessica.
Joe placed his head in his hands and sobbed while Jessica sat on the floor beside him, her arm around his shoulder.
Three weeks later Joe and Jessica were at the airport with their luggage when Joe heard a quiet voice behind him call his name.
He turned around.
“I’ve come to see you off Joe. I really couldn’t let you both go without making amends. I’m sorry if your dad took it so badly but the family business was his life.” Said Mary.
“I know,” said Joe, “But I just hate kitchens.”
Mary chuckled, “I know you do son. So, do I, to tell you the truth. I certainly don’t like the one your dad fitted in our house. How can anyone live with purple kitchen cupboards all the time?”
Joe burst out laughing and hugged his mother.
“I’m sorry Mum but we really must go and get our flight now. I’ll phone you as soon as we arrive and get the wedding date set and I’ll pay for you to come out and visit us.”
“Oh, Joe, that will be lovely. I’m so looking forward to it. Now be off you two adventurers and enjoy life down under.
Mary blew Joe and Jessica a kiss as they took the escalator for their flight to their new married life in Australia.
A month later Mary was on her way to their wedding. She held a little keepsake in her hand. A small prayer book with a red rose from Arthur’s funeral wreath pressed inside it.