WRITTEN BY ANGELA PICKERING
It was going to be an awkward weekend at Mum’s…
Lorna’s father had always said that life was like a picnic in the rain; you might get cold and wet, but the food was marvellous. Lorna and her mother had each held one of his hands while he slipped into his last ever sleep.
“He sounds like a really nice bloke,” Mark said, months later, as Lorna told him about her dad. “I wish I’d met him.”
“He’d have liked you too,” Lorna said and snuggled up against him. She’d been telling Mark all about her family in preparation for their visit to her home.
“Mum’s a bit old-fashioned,” she told him. “We’ll have to have separate rooms.”
Mark laid his cheek against the top of her head where it lay on his shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll manage for a few days.”
“Bless you,” she said. “I know I should have taken you to meet her before, but…”
“I understand,” he said. “It’s only a year since she lost your dad. She might feel like she’s losing you too.”
“Maybe I’m overreacting.” Lorna sighed. She really wasn’t sure how her mother would take the news of their engagement. “She might think we’re rushing into this,” she continued. “We’ve only known one another for six months.”
“She’ll understand,” Mark insisted. “When you know you’ve met the right person, why waste time?”
Your mum’s going to love me
Lorna was still tense as they drove through the village where she’d grown up. “There’s the Post Office, and the school, and there’s the playground where I met my first boyfriend.”
She bounced with excitement. “And there’s the park where we had the picnic that Dad used to talk about.”
“The famous one when it rained?”
“Yes, and Dad said…” She paused. She’d already told Mark every detail of that day. She’d hardly stopped for breath since they’d arrived.
Mark touched her hand briefly as he drove. “Calm down, love,” he said. “It’ll be fine. Your mum’s going to love me.”
Lorna managed a giggle.
“You’re confident,” she said.
“Just you wait ’til she sees the present I’ve brought her.”
“You didn’t say you’d bought her a gift.” She glanced at the back seat where a bunch of colourful blooms nodded with the movement of the car. “The flowers would have been enough.” She strained against her seatbelt. “Where is it?”
“In the boot; you’ll just have to wait.”
I’m so pleased to meet you at last
All too soon they turned into the drive and, as the car purred to a halt, the front door was flung open.
Lorna breathed a sigh of relief. Her mother’s smile seemed genuine and she kissed Mark on both cheeks without hesitation. “Call me Sue,” she said immediately on releasing him. “I’m so pleased to meet you at last.”
Lorna wanted to stay hugged in her mother’s arms for the rest of the day; she was so delighted with their reception. She was even more surprised when Sue announced that she’d put them together in the spare bedroom.
Her eyebrows shot up as if a string had been pulled – the same string that had also caused her jaw to drop.
“That’s very modern of you, Mum,” she mumbled.
“Would you rather have separate rooms?” said Sue. “I just thought you’d prefer to be together.”
Mark put his arm around Lorna. “No, that’s lovely, thank you, Sue.”
Lorna was still worried by the time lunch was over. Mark had disappeared out to the car to fetch his surprise gift.
Dad would have liked him, wouldn’t he?
“Are you OK about this, Mum?” she asked. “You don’t think it’s too early?”
Sue gave her one of those motherly looks that she’d perfected over the years.
“Haven’t I always said you should make your own decisions, Lorna?”
“If you’re sure, then I’m sure,” continued Sue.
Suddenly, Lorna wasn’t sure at all. “Dad would have liked him, wouldn’t he?”
“This was a bit of a risk, but I hope you like it.” He thrust the present into Sue’s arms. Her face was a picture of delight.
“I’ve always wanted one of these.”
A single tear trickled down her cheek.
“I couldn’t arrange any rain,” said Mark, and he suddenly looked so vulnerable that all Lorna’s doubts vanished instantly.
Sue blinked hard. “I’ll make the sandwiches then, shall I?” she said.
Lorna’s arms were tight around Mark as Sue left them and drifted into the kitchen, her arms tight around Mark’s present: a wicker picnic basket.