The Wadhams: And Then There Were Five

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 family life with wife Natalie and toddler son William in their flat above Pretty Polly’s, the hairdressing and beauty salon which Natalie runs. Now they’re expecting twins, the flat is too small but Natalie’s gran, Julia, has come up with a solution and they have bought a house together with a modern granny annexe attached.

“It needs to be higher on that side.”

Julia Jameson’s tone was sharp and demanding, and Alex made a face against the wall as he positioned the curtain pole an infinitesimal millimetre higher to suit his wife’s grandmother’s exacting standards.

Since moving into their new home a week ago, he’d spent more time in the adjoining granny annexe than he had in the main house, where Natalie, too heavily pregnant to help out with the heavy jobs, was currently busy entertaining their small son, William.

At 36 weeks pregnant with twins, the doctors had decided to bring her into hospital on Monday to be induced. So she was making the most of her time with the toddler, who should really have been at nursery this afternoon.

He’d just drilled the hole for the curtain pole when the loud slamming of the intersecting door that allowed access between the houses startled both him and Julia, and he dropped the screw he’d been holding on to the carpet.

Julia did not know whether to tut at him, or reprove Natalie, who had suddenly appeared from her kitchen, William in tow.

“Sorry, Gran.” Natalie gasped. “I know the door is only to be used in emergencies, but …” She grimaced, and suddenly doubled over in pain. “Alex, my waters just broke. We’ll have to get to the hospital.”

Alex jumped down from the stepladder so quickly he sent it flying, nearly knocking over Julia in the process.

She steadied herself.

“But you’re having the babies on Monday,” she said. “It’s all organised. Alex’s mother is going to look after William while you are away, because your mother has decamped to Spain for the summer.

“Selfish, as always,” she added, almost as an afterthought.

“Oh, no – William.” Natalie gasped again, but not with a contraction this time. “Alex, your mum and dad don’t get back from their trip until tomorrow. What are we going to do about William?”

Alex was halfway through the door, in search of his car keys. He called back over his shoulder, “Julia, you’ll have to look after him for now. I’ll get Natalie to hospital, then I’ll sort something out.”

“Me!” Julia looked affronted, then uncertain as she glanced between William and Natalie, already breathing shallowly through another contraction. It was obvious there was not much time to spare.

“Well, all right,” she said. “As long as it’s not for too long.”

If Natalie could have laughed, she would. Only her upright, uptight grandmother could think babies could be organised to arrive to a schedule to suit her.

“Thanks, Gran,” she said, as Alex reappeared with her pre-packed bag and car keys. “The way I feel, it shouldn’t be too long before Alex is back – though I’ll probably be kept in for a day or two, as it’s twins.”

“Natalie! Come on!” Alex looked as near to panicking as she’d ever seen her usually calm, easy-going husband.

But then, it wasn’t every day they had twins ….

In the aftermath of their departure, Julia and William stared at each other helplessly.

William’s bottom lip suddenly trembled.

“Want Mummy!” he said.

“Well, you can’t have her,” Julia replied tartly. “She’s gone to fetch your little sisters, so you’ll just have to put up with me, for now.”

“Want Mummy! And Daddy!” William’s demand turned to a scream, and his eyes filled with real tears.

Oh, dear, Julia would have to do something. But what did one do with small children? It was so long since she’d had any dealings with them. She cast her mind back to when Natalie’s father Eric was a boy.

“Why don’t we have a snack?” she suggested.

William’s wails stopped instantly. “Biscuit!” he yelled. “Juice!”

Julia shuddered. Ever since they’d met it seemed to her William’s voice had two tones – loud and very loud. Now that she was living next door to him, she’d have to teach him to modulate it.

“You’ll have a banana. And milk,” she said.

“An’ watch Hey Duggie,” William demanded.

Julia shook her head. “We don’t have CBeebies on this television. You will sit nicely at the table, and then, when you have finished your snack, we will go to the park for a short time.”

William eyed her carefully. He’d rather have biscuits than banana, but the park sounded a good idea.

He was missing his nursery friends, and his boon companion, Ruby, Alex’s little sister, who’d gone with her parents on their Lake District trip. Maybe there would be someone to play with at the park.

“OK, Gaga,” he agreed, and ambled into the kitchen.

Julia shuddered. Gaga! Of all the names! But at just short of three, he could not yet pronounce great-gran. She would have to put up with it – for now.

An hour later, they were back – William had swung on the swings, slid down the slide and rotated on the roundabout, all at a rate that had left Julia’s own head spinning. She was a sprightly enough eighty-year-old, but keeping up with her great-grandson was proving tiring. All she wanted was a cup of tea and a nap, but now William was demanding to be amused again.

And still no word from Alex.

She looked longingly at the emergency door into her granddaughter’s home, where William’s toys and books all waited to entertain him. It wasn’t locked – she could easily go through and get something.

But she had declared it was to be used for emergencies only, and she was too stubborn to go back on her word. Besides, William needed to learn to mind her.

“Come and sit by me and I’ll tell you a story,” she cajoled.

“Want my cars.” William could be as stubborn as his Gaga when he chose.

“You’ll get them when Daddy comes home,” Julia said firmly. “Now come on. We’ll have a little quiet time, then it will be time for tea.”

“No!” William flung himself to the floor, kicking his legs and arms.

Julia sighed and stepped over him. Children who had tantrums were better left alone, she always thought. He’d have calmed down by the time she’d made a cup of tea.

The tactic worked. Tired and missing his mummy, William fell asleep mid-scream, and Julia had twenty minutes’ respite before he pulled himself up from the floor, sucking his thumb as he sidled to Julia’s side.

“Oh, poor wee man.” Despite herself, Julia’s heart melted. “Come on, Great-gran will tell you a story now.”

“About dogs.”

“All right.” She pulled him up beside her on the sofa, and he nestled into her as she dredged her memories of the things her childhood companion had got up to when she was a girl and he just a puppy.

Soon William was laughing and asking questions, and for a while peace reigned.

But after a tea of toast, egg and baked beans, it started again. When was Mummy coming home? Why couldn’t he watch Paw Patrol? Where was Daddy? When was Ruby coming back? He wanted his rabbit!

His rabbit! In the short time that Julia had been acquainted with her great-grandson, she’d learned one thing – William would not go to sleep without his beloved toy bunny. And it was in the main house.

She glanced at her watch, and then at her phone. Oh, where was Alex? Why was this taking so long? She knew Natalie would not have had the babies yet, but surely she was settled enough by now for Alex to be able to leave her?

A cold dread settled in Julia’s heart. Surely nothing had gone wrong.

The key in the door alerted Julia to her grandson-in-law’s return, and she pulled herself up with a groan. Really, she was too old to be falling asleep on a sofa, especially one that wasn’t her own. She glanced at the unfamiliar wall clock – it was one in the morning.

“Julia,” Alex said. “I’m so sorry…”

“Never mind that.” She waved her hand imperiously. “How is Natalie? Are the babies here yet? Why haven’t you phoned?”

Alex smiled a tired smile.

“Natalie is fine – now,” he said. “And the babies are both OK. Lyra arrived about an hour after we got to the hospital, but – “ his voice faltered. “There were complications with Lottie’s arrival, and they had to rush Natalie to theatre for a C-section.

“Then they had to take Lottie off to SCBU – she’s tiny, so much smaller than Lyra. They’re keeping her there for the next couple of days, and Lyra will stay with Natalie. I’ve left them both sleeping soundly.”

“Have you let your parents know?” Julia demanded.

“Not yet.” He yawned. “I thought I’d better get back and relieve you of William. But I thought you’d both be in your house,” he said. “I was just going to sneak through the door and get him. Has he been OK?”

Julia thought back to the afternoon and evening. It had been so much easier once she’d broken her own rule, stepped through the door into William’s home, and switched on CBeebies – though William had had to show her how to work the remote control!

He’d watched TV, played happily in his bath and gone to bed in his own small bed, bunny snuggled in beside him, without a murmur.

And sinking on to the settee downstairs, Julia had decided that rules were made to be broken. In fact, living next door to her family, she might just have to stop making them.

Not that she was going to admit that to Alex, of course.

She seized on one of the things he’d said.

“Lottie? I thought the baby was to be Charlotte, once you’d decided against River.”

Alex laughed. “River was never seriously in the mix. But we like the sound of Lyra and Lottie – and Lottie will still have a different initial for whenever officialdom steps in.

“Oh, Julia!” His face burst into a huge, proud smile. “You should see them. They’re so perfect.” He pulled out his phone and proceeded to scroll through the photos.

“Here’s the one of them together, before Lottie was whisked away,” he said.

Julia reached for her specs, and peered at the phone.

“They are beautiful,” she agreed. “I look forward to seeing them when Natalie gets home.”

“Right,” Alex nodded. “Now, you get off home, and I’ll get off to bed. I’m not phoning mum and dad or Carol now – it can wait till morning.”

“So I’m really the first to know?” Julia asked in surprise.

“First to know and first to see them. Natalie wants me to bring you and William to the hospital tomorrow.”

Alex grinned as he watched Julia’s face glow with pride, and something more. Could that be – tenderness?

Living next door was not always going to be easy, he knew, but the old lady was beginning to prove that her heart was in the right place, and that she was going to be a valued member of their expanded family.

Join us next month for more adventures with the Wadhams clan.

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