We’re delighted to bring you the continuing adventures of Life & The Wadhams, featuring the younger members of the family. Not yet met the Wadhams? Read the background on My Weekly’s best-loved family, then come back and enjoy the next generation’s adventures as Mike and Polly Wadham’s elder grandson, Alex Clark settles into a new life with fiancée Natalie in the flat above the antique shop his grandfather used to own. After the arrival of baby William, they finally managed to have their Lockdown wedding. What’s next for our newly-weds?
Natalie Clark regarded herself proudly in the full-length mirror that had been her best-ever Valentine’s day present from husband Alex. She was definitely trimmer than she’d been a month ago, she decided, and her skin was looking better, too.
The healthy eating had paid off, but what had really brought the glow back to Natalie’s cheeks was fresh air, exercise and her growing friendship with Keisha, the young mum she now met almost daily in the park.
With their babies wrapped up well against the winter chill, and keeping a suitable social distance, of course, the two women were making up for months of enforced isolation from other new mums and all the support that they would bring to each other in normal times.
Natalie was looking forward to sharing how introducing little William to apple puree had gone – she wondered if Kayla had loved it as much the first time she’d tasted it – but first she had to Facetime her mum Carol to let her know she’d be over later that day to cut her hair, as promised.
“Hi darling.” Carol was prompt to reply to reply to her call. “How’s my little treasure?”
“I’m fine, Mum,” Natalie replied, wilfully misunderstanding her.
Carol pouted. “You know just who I mean. Where’s my precious William? I demand to see him right now.”
“He’s right here,” Natalie laughed, lifting the baby from his bouncy chair and holding him aloft so his granny could coo at him. “But you’ll see him in a few hours anyway.”
“I know but I couldn’t wait. Ooh, how’s granny’s little boy then? How’s my little silly Billy?”
William blew an obliging raspberry towards his granny, while Natalie sighed.
“I wish you wouldn’t call him that, Mum! And you’re lucky, you know – you get to hold and cuddle him. Alex’s mum and dad have only seen him outdoors since Christmas-time, and he’s so bundled up against this cold they might as well be looking at an Amazon parcel.
“Anyway, I’ll see you later this afternoon – it’ll be round about three, so have your hair washed ready and I’ll soon get you looking beautiful again.”
“You mean I’m not gorgeous now!” Carol pouted and laughed. “See you soon, darling – I’ve got some news that I can’t wait to tell you.”
Hmm, that was intriguing, Natalie thought, as she closed the laptop. Though knowing Carol, her news could be anything from as dramatic as she was moving to Australia to as mundane as picking up a different cereal on her weekly trip to the supermarket. Her mum was nothing if not mercurial – Natalie knew by now to expect the unexpected.
As she happily stuffed William into his snowsuit and prepared to brave the chill, Natalie reflected how lucky she was. Her mum might be somewhat flaky, but she had a handsome, loving husband, a gorgeous baby, a supportive extended family in her in-laws, a great circle of friends that now included Keisha, and a cosy little home.
Really, life couldn’t be much better …
Carol was not the only one with news. At No. 23 Elderslie Terrace, Alex’s sister Jennifer was sharing something she’d just heard over a Facetime session from her friend Nathan. It was a snippet of gossip he’d dropped casually, unthinking of the effect it would have on her brother and his new wife.
She’d cut him short and rushed downstairs to find her mum Pinky and grandma Polly cosy in the kitchen, and started babbling out her news at such a rate of knots that neither older woman could make sense of it.
“Slow down,” Pinky said firmly, pushing her older daughter into a chair. “Take a breath, and tell us just what Nathan said.”
Jennifer took a calming sip of the tea her grandma had poured for her.
“He said that his mum and dad are selling up the antique shop.”
“But they’ve hardly started up!” Polly exclaimed. The antique shop had belonged to her and husband Mike, and they’d been so happy when the new owners, the Richards, had pledged to carry it on. They had even kept on both the manager, Margery, and Jennifer as a Saturday girl – right up until she took her present job at the local care home.
“Mike will be so upset,” she went on, looking anxious. Like her, Mike was in his eighties but nowhere near as robust. Polly could pass for seventy, but a stroke and recurrent infections had made her beloved husband frail and increasingly vague.
“I know.” Pinky laid a reassuring hand on her mum’s shoulder. “But, you know, you can’t blame the Richards. They’d hardly opened up when they had to shut down, and since then it’s been stop, start, stop, closed, open, closed, over and over again. We can’t really blame them if they want to cut their losses.
“But I do hope Margery finds another job – though I suppose she may decide to retire early now.”
Jennifer rolled her eyes. It seemed to her both her mum and grandma were missing the point in the way old folk always did. At 18, she considered her mum in that category, even though Pinky wasn’t much over 50 and a still-energetic mum to active toddler Ruby.
“They’re not just selling the shop – they’re selling the flat as well. They think it will sell much more easily as a job lot. And you know what that will mean for Alex and Natalie? They’ll be homeless! Out on the street! With nothing but the clothes they stand up in!” she concluded dramatically.
Polly clapped her hands to her mouth.
“No! Surely they won’t turn them out!”
“Of course they won’t.” Pinky glared at her daughter as she hastened to comfort her mum. “I’m sure they’ll let them stay on until they’ve found a new home. And if the worst comes to the worst, they can move in with Carol for a short time. It will all work out.”
At Carol’s, Natalie was at the tricky stage of feathering her mum’s bob when Carol finally stopped dropping hints and shared her exciting news.
Natalie already knew about Harry, the man she’d met in the summer, who’d become more than a friend. But she hadn’t realised how serious the relationship was, until now.
“You’re moving in with him!” she shrieked, nearly cutting off her mother’s ear as she delivered her bombshell. “But you hardly know him.”
“I’ve known him over six months,” Carol pointed out. “He’s charming, fun, well off – and very sexy,” she finished off, as Natalie shuddered.
“Life’s short, darling, and I want a little fun. I’m fed up of living alone here all by myself. I’m doing it whether you approve or not – though obviously I’d prefer it if you were happy for me.”
Natalie bit her lip. This was her mum all over! A single mum, she’d devoted herself to her only daughter, but as soon as Natalie was sixteen she’d declared it was time to get her own life back, thank you very much. She remained loving, but Natalie had learned quickly to stand on her own two feet.
“Of course, I’m happy for you,” she said now. “I’m just thinking how much William and I will miss you.”
“Darling, I’ll only be over the other side of town. I’m not moving away.”
“No, but you won’t be living alone any more,” Natalie pointed out. “We won’t be able to bubble with you.”
“Oh!” Carol’s face fell momentarily. As usual, she hadn’t thought beyond her own wants and needs.
Natalie felt suddenly sorry for her – here she was, happy and content with her own little family, and she was begrudging her mum the same.
“But we’ll be able to meet up outdoors, like I do with Pinky now,” she reassured Carol. “And lockdown can’t go on much longer.”
She returned to her snipping as she asked, “What about this house? You won’t leave it empty, will you?”
“Already sorted!” Carol beamed. “Kay’s daughter Maya has been looking for a place for her and her partner Alice, so they’re going to rent it. The lease is all drawn up, and they’ll move in when I move out next week.”
“You’re a quick worker when you want to be, aren’t you, Mum?” Natalie marvelled as she picked up the hairdryer.
“Just like you.” Carol laughed as she shook out her newly-styled hair. “All your clients at Crazy Cuts must be missing you like crazy!”
Though Natalie walked home briskly, little William was already asleep in his pram by the time she lifted him out and carried him up the stairs to their cosy flat above the antiques shop.
She was surprised to find the door open, and Alex waiting inside. He was normally at the garage until at least six.
“You’re home early,” she said, greeting him with a kiss.
“I know,” he said sombrely. “I had to come home to let you know I had a visit from Bob Richards today.”
“Oh?” Natalie frowned. “We’re not behind with the rent, are we?”
“No.” Alex shook his head. There was no way to break this gently. “He’s selling up – the shop and the flat. He was coming round to tell us tonight, but Nathan already let it slip to Jen, so he came round to the garage to tell me.
“He’s really sorry – but we’ll have to find somewhere else to live.”
Natalie clutched baby William tightly to her chest.
“Oh, Alex, we’ve been so happy here. What are we going to do now?”
Join us next month for more Wadhams adventures.