This story is set a little in the future as far as the DI Lyle Mystery Series is concerned since it takes place in June 1993. It refers to previous series story arc events.
The events described here are for the purpose of this story ONLY. They will not become part of the main DI Lyle series story arc.
For American readers A&E stands for Accident & Emergency, which is what you call the ER or Emergency Room. ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit.
WARNING CONTAINS SPOILER MATERIAL WITH REGARD TO THE FORTHCOMING DI FRANK LYLE MYSTERY DEAD ON ARRIVAL. DON’T CLAIM YOU WEREN’T WARNED.
DS Thomas Fox lay back against James in the warm water, enjoying the comforting feel of his boyfriend’s arms around him.
“I love you so much.” Thomas breathed.
“I love you too,” James nuzzled Thomas’ bare neck and shoulder.
“I’d never have made it this far without you, James.”
“How do you mean?”
“You sat with me while I was unconscious, you comforted me when I told you about Aidan buggering me, you were there for me when I finally told my Dad and you were in court with me to see Aidan sentenced. My life was nothing before you loved me.”
James kissed Thomas’ head.
“You’re worth it, Thomas, and it’s a two-way street as far as I’m concerned. You helped me finally come to terms with being gay, and you were there for me when my mum rejected me.”
“What do you want to do for Father’s Day?” Thomas asked, “I mean obviously I want to spend time with Barry, but I know Frank is important to you too.”
“Why don’t we club together and take everyone out for dinner?” James suggested. “It’ll be you, me, Barry, Sylvia, Ryan, Rosemary and Chantelle as well as Jayseera, my dad and Jasmine. That way we won’t feel like we have to tear ourselves in half.”
“That’s a good idea; I’ll suggest it to Frank at work tomorrow.”
Thomas and James were both serving officers in the Ashbeck Division of Thames Valley Police. Thomas was a Detective Sergeant in the main CID, working with James’ father, DI Frank Lyle. James, a new recruit, was working in the Political Activism Monitoring Unit, known colloquially as PAMU. He was a Detective Constable on fast track promotion.
It was a warm Sunday evening in June nineteen ninety-three. Father’s Day would be the following weekend. James idolised his father, Frank. For much of his life, Thomas had believed his real father to have died in a fire when he was just six, but the turn of events earlier that year revealed that Thomas was actually the natural son of Dr Barry Fox, the District Coroner. Barry’s identical twin brother, Matthew, had perished in the fire along with Thomas’ mother, Yvonne. Matthew had been Rosemary’s father so they were in fact only half siblings, but still close. In fact Rosemary was the only person Thomas allowed to call him Tom. Not even James was afforded that privilege.
James & Thomas washed each other with a soft sponge and then dried one another with a big soft towel. Thomas tingled all over whenever James touched him. James held Thomas close and they shared a deeply sensual kiss.
They were about to go to bed for some serious love-making when the phone rang.
“Leave it!” James said.
“I can’t” Thomas replied, “It’s nearly ten o’clock at night. It could be work or someone might be ill. You know as well as I do that murder and illness rarely confine themselves to office hours.”
Thomas answered the phone.
“Thomas Fox speaking.”
“Tom?” The caller’s voice was choked with emotion and it took a few seconds for Thomas to recognise his sister’s voice.
“What’s wrong Rosie?”
“Barry’s had a heart attack, Tom. Sylvia and I are at the hospital. Ryan is looking after Chantelle. Sylvia is distraught so I can’t leave her for too long.”
“When did it happen?”
“About an hour ago, although it feels a lot longer.”
“James and I will come straight away. Hang on in there.”
Thomas hung up and related to James what had happened.
“I’m glad you ignored me and answered it.” Was all James said.
They dressed hurriedly and James drove them to Ashbeck General.
“Are you alright Thomas?”
“Not until I know he’s going to be okay. I have every faith in hospital staff. I would not be here if they hadn’t acted so quickly.” Thomas clenched his fist, “God, James, I’ve not long known I’m Barry’s son.”
“I remember when my Dad got stabbed during the Unholy Alliance case. “ James said, “Jayseera and I were shitting ourselves with worry.”
“Well, at least you have some idea of what I’m feeling right now. I’m scared, James.”
James held his boyfriend close for a moment.
“Hey, I know, but we’ll get through this together like we always do.”
They found Rosemary in A&E, trying to pacify a distraught Sylvia. Thomas embraced them both. Sylvia clung to him.
“It’s going to be okay, Sylvia. Barry’s tough.”
“I’m so scared, I felt so helpless.” Sylvia sobbed. “He just crumpled to the floor.”
“I remember when Sergeant Harding had his heart attack last year. I felt helpless too and he isn’t my father.” Thomas said.
“The medical staff here is very good,” James said, “Thomas wouldn’t be here now if they weren’t.”
That was a sobering thought. Thomas’ expression darkened momentarily, as it always did whenever his close brush with death the previous year was mentioned.
“It’s easier for me, Tom, Barry isn’t my dad.” Rosemary said.
Rosemary had walked in on them when they were discussing matters and been totally shocked to learn that, not only was Thomas not her full sibling, but that her father, Matthew, had been gay. She had made it up with them because her family was important to her. She had learnt that through being a mother herself.”
Thomas still had not told his sister that he had been thoroughly buggered by Aidan O’Malley even though he was now in prison.
“You should have been my Mum, Sylvia,” Thomas said, “I blame it on a cruel twist of fate that you’re not. My true biological mother would never have been able to accept me being gay.”
“Thomas what will happen...if I lose him? Your father means the world to me. The thought of life without him, after everything we went through together, petrifies me.”
“You can’t think like that Sylvia, you have to stay positive,” James said gently.
“I know, I’m sorry,” she sobbed. Thomas comforted her.
The doctor came out, a young Nigerian gentleman. Dr Akachi Akandi had recently moved to Ashbeck from London and was nearing the end of his third week as an Accident & Emergency doctor at Ashbeck General Hospital. His name meant “hand of God” in the Igbo language. He wasn’t so happy about that, hadn’t been since the infamous “Hand of God” goal by Diego Maradona in the nineteen eighty-six World Cup that had knocked his adopted country of England out of the tournament. Plus he wasn’t remotely religious. He had come over from Nigeria at the age of three and only gone back once since to attend his paternal grandfather’s funeral.
“Mrs Fox, I’m Dr Akandi.”
“Doctor, this is my half brother, Dr Fox’s son,” Rosemary said.
They shook hands.
“And this is my boyfriend, James,” Thomas said.
“At the moment Dr Fox is unconscious but stable,” Dr Akandi said, “His heart rhythm is regular and he is breathing unaided. It was a mild attack, but quite frankly we’re baffled. His heart is in good order and there is nothing that could have contributed. He is not remotely overweight and, as far as I can see from his notes, there is no family history of heart trouble.”
“He is the District Coroner,” Thomas replied proudly, “That can’t be an easy job emotionally, being a serving police officer is tough enough as James and I well know.”
“Does your husband have any close relatives?” Dr Akandi asked Sylvia.
“No doctor, he had an identical twin, eight minutes younger than he was, but Matthew died in a house fire back in nineteen seventy-three. He was in good health though.”
“I see.” Dr Akandi looked thoughtful.
“Can we see him?” Thomas asked.
“They’re in the process of moving him from here to a cardiac ward,” Dr Akandi said, “The transfer should take about twenty minutes or so. Why don’t you get yourselves a cup of coffee and then walk along to Kingfisher Ward? Everything that can be done for him is being done and we will make him comfortable.”
“He’s not going to ICU then?” James asked.
“No, his life is not in danger,” Dr Akandi said, “I warn you though, you will need a strong stomach for hospital canteen coffee.”
“I drink in the Ashbeck Police canteen,” Thomas said, “Compared to the muck they serve there any coffee is palatable.”
Dr Akandi left.
“Come on Sylvia,” Thomas said, “Let’s go get a drink. It might be a long night.”
Sylvia, Thomas, James & Rosemary drank tea in the hospital canteen. It was like dishwater, but they barely tasted it anyway.
When they had finished they went along to the ward.
“Dr Fox is still unconscious at present, see.” a pretty Welsh nurse said. Her name tag read Bronwyn.
“Do you mind if we wait?” James asked, “His wife, son and niece are very concerned about him.”
“No, have a seat. I’ll have someone come out to you soon see but they’re changing shift at the moment.”
They had a seat. Rosemary held her aunt’s hand while Thomas held James’.
“It’ll be alright,” James whispered.
Another doctor came out.
“Dr Fox is comfortable, but still unconscious at present. You can go in but not too long please. We have to keep an eye on him and he needs to rest.”
Sylvia went into the room first. Barry lay bare chested with electrodes connecting him to a heart monitor which bleeped as the green zigzag line indicated a stable heart-rate. Her eyes were filled with tears as she held his hand and gently kissed his cheek.
“You gave me such a fright, Barry.” She whispered, “But we’re all here for you. Thomas, James & Rosemary are outside. Please be okay because I don’t think I could live without you, not after everything we have been through together over the years.”
She smiled as she felt the fingers of his right hand curl around hers as his dark eyes opened slowly.
“It’s not my time yet, Sylv,” he rasped, “You’ll be stuck with me a good few years yet.”
Sylvia poured a glass of water and held it to her husband’s lips so he could drink.
“Dr Barry Fox, there is no one I would rather be stuck with and you know it.” The tears in her eyes were now tears of relief, “I love you so much.”
“I love you too, Sylv. I always have and I always will.”
A nurse came in.
“It’s good to have you back with us, Dr Fox, although I’m told that doctors make terrible patients.”
“So I’m told,” he smiled.
.”Do you mind if I do a few routine things?” The nurse asked Sylvia, “Your son, niece and son’s boyfriend are outside.”
“No, carry on. I’m just glad he’s awake. If he’s difficult tell me and I’ll sort him out.” she laughed.
Sylvia came out. Thomas looked up.
“He’s awake,” she announced.
“That’s splendid news.” James said.
Sylvia felt like she was floating. The nurse had referred to Thomas as “your son”, implying the motherhood that her biology had denied her. That was a moment she would cherish forever, Thomas had said earlier that she was his mum as far as he was concerned. Sylvia had not bothered to correct the nurse. Thomas was born due to a surrogacy arrangement between Barry and his sister in law, Yvonne, after a miscarriage and emergency hysterectomy had left Sylvia unable to bear a child of her own. The issue of Surrogacy was controversial so Sylvia thought, why muddy the waters, especially when the nurse had really made her day.
The nurse came out.
“He’s asking for Thomas,” she said.
Thomas went in and hugged his father as best he could with the wires trailing from him.
“Dad, I’m so glad you’re going to be okay.”
“I feel fine, son. They’ll have to get a locum coroner in for a while until they decide I can return to work. I’m not done with the job yet.”
“I was scared I was going to lose you.”
“You, better than anyone, should know how tough we Foxes are, Thomas.” Barry took his son’s hand.
“Yeah I do.”
“I love you, Thomas, you’re my son and I’m so proud of you. I’m especially pleased that you found the love with another man that eluded Matthew. Hold on to James.”
“I’m not letting him go anywhere, Dad, don’t worry. I love you too, so very much.”
“You two ought to go home,” Sylvia said, “You both have work in the morning.”
Rosemary went in to see her uncle.
James and Thomas arrived home just after midnight. Thomas made coffee.
“I’m so relieved,” Thomas breathed.
“I know and I’m relieved too.” James said.
“Guv, can I have a word in private?” Thomas asked DI Lyle the next morning. The Incident Room was quiet. DS Slade was on the phone and DC Mahon was reading through some witness statements. DC Delaney was absent as he and his wife had taken their teenage daughter, Natalie, on holiday.
“Yes certainly. “ They went into an empty room.
“My dad had a heart attack last night,” Thomas began.
“You really shouldn’t be here then, DS Fox.” DI Lyle said.
“He’s going to be fine, Guv, It was only a mild one. James & I went up to the hospital last night.”
“That’s a relief. I know how you feel about Barry.”
“Well before my sister phoned to tell us, James and I were discussing Father’s Day. We don’t want to tear ourselves in half so we thought you’d both treat you, Jayseera, Jasmine and my lot to dinner. Sylvia and my sister want to meet you because Dad talks about you a lot. And they already know James of course. Obviously things might change, depending on how Barry gets on.”
“Well they say doctors make the worse patients.” DI Lyle said.
“Coppers probably come a pretty close second.” Thomas replied, “I’m sure I was a terrible patient once I woke up. I wanted to talk about the Driscoll murder as I was desperate to fill in the blanks in my memory of that day, but they kept telling me to rest. DI Redfern sneaked the Ashbeck Courier in a couple of times, but if any of the ICU staff had seen it he’d probably have been banned from visiting again.”
“Well you got there in the end,” DI Lyle said, “I’ll tell Jayseera about the dinner, and the fact things are subject to change on account of Barry.”
Thomas went to visit Barry, delighted to see his dad sitting up in bed. The heart monitor was still connected.
“Sylvia’s gone to get some of that sludge they have a nerve to call coffee.”
“It is gourmet fare compared to the police canteen stuff.” Thomas replied.
“They’re going to disconnect this later on,” Barry indicated the heart-monitor, “and all being well I can go home on Wednesday. Have you got any big cases on at the moment?”
“No, we’re just cooling our heels right now.” Thomas said, “Although I have learnt never to speak too soon about murder in Ashbeck.”
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be off.” Barry said, “But I’m going to go stir-crazy.”
“You’ll have Sylvia all to yourself.” Thomas said, “She was distraught last night.”
“She’s been through a lot over the years, Thomas. I know she needs me as much as I need her. In fact I’ve never needed anyone like I need Sylvia.”
“I understand totally, Dad, because I feel exactly the same way about James.”
They chatted idly for a bit and then Thomas told him about James’ Father’s Day dinner suggestion.
“It sounds like a good idea, Thomas. It will save Sylvia, Rosemary and Mrs Lyle the trouble of cooking. “
“Sylvia and Rosemary really want to meet DI Lyle as well.” Thomas said, “We’ll have to make sure we go somewhere that does a vegetarian choice because James’ step-mum doesn’t eat meat or fish, it is the one part of the Hindu faith she still observes.”
“Yes I’ve met her professionally several times over the years, at inquests and such like, but she always dresses in a Western style.”
“Well, James and I will phone around and book a table somewhere. It shouldn’t be too difficult, not like Mother’s Day.”
“I’ll leave it in your capable hands, Thomas.” Barry said, “Just remember that Sylvia and your sister don’t like Thai or Chinese food.”
“I won’t forget, Dad.” Thomas said.
James met Thomas at the hospital as they were going to Frank and Jayseera’s for dinner. Jasmine threw herself into James’ arms and he picked her up.
“I’m sorry to hear about Barry,” Jayseera said, bringing in some Indian snacks, “Is he going to be alright?”
“Yes, he’s running the nurses ragged.” Thomas laughed, “Hopefully he can come home on Wednesday as it was only a mild attack.”
“That’s a relief,” Frank said, “He’s the best coroner Ashbeck has ever had. I never rated his predecessor much and I’m not just saying that because you’re Barry’s son.”
“I think Sylvia’s more relieved than anyone.” Thomas said, “She and my dad have been through a lot together.”
Frank and Jayseera knew Thomas’ history; about Sylvia being unable to have children and the surrogacy arrangement that had ended with Thomas’ mother deciding to keep him.
“She’s essentially your mother, although not biologically.” Jayseera said.
“As far as I’m concerned she is,” Thomas replied, “I don’t really remember my real mum, but from what I know she would have had a hard time accepting my true nature.”
“Well, James has never been in any doubt about his paternity.” Frank said.
“Come on young lady, time you were in bed.” Jayseera said.
“Don’t want to,” Jasmine sulked.
Jayseera scooped Jasmine up and carried her out of the room. They could hear the little girl’s petulant shrieking.
“Jasmine turns into a monster as soon as the word bed is mentioned.” Frank said.
“My niece can be like that sometimes.” Thomas said.
“Did I behave at bedtime when I was Jasmine’s age?” James asked Frank.
“The times I was home yes you did, but your mother will probably tell you different.” Frank said.
“I was usually good, from what I’ve been told,” Thomas said, “Unless I didn’t have my soft toy fox for some reason then, apparently, I’d scream the place down until I was reunited with it. Mind you I didn’t get Foxy until my fifth birthday so no idea what I was like before that as my mum and Matthew aren’t here to tell me. I’m so relieved Mum remembered to pack Foxy the night she took us over to Barry’s. Foxy was like a security blanket after they died.”
James pulled Thomas close to him.
“Thanks for the dinner offer,” Jayseera said as she came back into the room.”
“That’s fine; we didn’t want to feel like we were tearing ourselves in half.” James said.
“Chinese & Thai are out though,” Thomas said, “Sylvia and my sister don’t like that kind of food and to be honest I’m not especially keen either.”
“What about Italian?” Jayseera suggested, “Curry might be a bit much for Jasmine, despite having an Indian mother. Casa Mia does a good vegetarian menu as well.”
Casa Mia was one of Ashbeck’s most popular Italian restaurants.
“I’ll phone them tomorrow and see if they have a table.” James said.
On Wednesday afternoon Sylvia went to Ashbeck General to bring her husband home. She settled him onto the sofa, tucked a blanket around him and made him a cup of tea.
He pulled her close to him.
“You really are everything to me, Sylv,” he murmured, “I love you more today than I ever have.”
“I love you too, Barry, and you’re everything to me.”
“I finally feel complete, Sylv. I have you and I have my son. I still feel part of me is missing because of Matthew’s absence, but that pain has greatly lessened over the years. After all, I see Matthew whenever I look in a mirror and every time I see Thomas with James I’m glad he has what Matthew never found, it’s like he’s broken that cycle.”
“James is everything I ever wanted for Thomas since he first came out.” Sylvia said, “I really look forward to meeting his father.”
“Frank is a good man and an even better DI.” Barry said, “James is the spitting image of him, albeit about four inches shorter.”
Barry had been warned about not exerting himself for a few weeks, although tests had shown that there was no serious lasting damage to his heart. Sylvia had made up a bed for them on the ground floor as she had no intention of being separated from her husband. After dinner they watched TV together, snuggled up on the sofa and then they retired. Sylvia lay in Barry’s strong arms, her head resting on his chest and he held her close.
“The current Mrs Lyle isn’t James’ mother is she?” Sylvia asked.
“No, that was his now ex wife, Sarah. She cruelly rejected James when he came out, but came through for him while Thomas was in the ICU. I’ve met her and she seems to be living with a lot of regrets, particularly about losing Frank, DI Lyle. I could sense that she still loves him very much.”
“I know, but it happens with a lot of coppers, the wife feels second to the job and gets resentful. She doesn’t try to understand.”
“Your work has only brought us closer, Barry.”
“I know, but GPs and coroners have more or less regular hours. The same can’t be said of police officers.”
They shared a deep tender kiss and Sylvia felt every nerve ending in her body come alive. Even after so many years Barry was still the only man she had ever loved. When the kiss broke Barry was trembling too.
“What d you want to do for our anniversary next month?” Barry asked his wife. The Fox’s thirty-first wedding anniversary would fall on the fifteenth of July, three days after Rosemary’s birthday.
Sylvia looked into her husband’s eyes and gently trailed her fingers down his side.
“I’d like us to renew our wedding vows, Barry. Heaven knows you mean even more to me now than when we originally made them because so much has happened. I also think it would be kind of romantic. I don’t want a huge gathering though, just us, the priest, Thomas, James, Rosemary, Ryan and Chantelle.”
Barry pulled her close.
“I like that idea,” he whispered huskily in her ear, a gesture which sent shivers through her body, “I don’t show you nearly enough romantic gesture, but the young think they have the monopoly on romance.”
“Just having you come home to me every night is romance enough, Barry,” Sylvia said softly, “You’re all I have ever wanted, besides a child, and we have Thomas, despite the fact he isn’t a babe in arms anymore.”
“He’s a young man with the freedom to be true to himself that Matthew never had.”
Sylvia held her husband close, realising that his body was shaking with sobs.
“Hush Barry, what is it?” Sylvia soothed.
“I miss Matthew, Sylv, I miss him more than even I realise sometimes. Seeing his image near enough every time I look in the mirror isn’t enough. I know it’s not easy for you to understand, never having had a sibling, let alone a twin, but a small part of me died with him in that fire. It will be twenty years this December since that dreadful night.”
“I know.” Sylvia gently stroked her husband’s back and soothed him until they both fell asleep wrapped tightly in each other’s arms.
The following morning James telephoned Casa Mia and was delighted to be told that they had a table available for ten people that Sunday lunchtime. He stated that it would be for nine chairs and a high chair.
“It is for the Father’s Day, no?” The Italian waiter asked.
“Yes,” James said, “It will be a family gathering.”
“Of course, Signor.”
That having been done James settled down to read through some information on a local Feminist group who were protesting at abortion clinics in the area outlining a woman’s right to choose versus the church lobby’s claim that it was murder.
A chill ran through him. Just suppose that Thomas’ mother Yvonne had changed her mind and decided to abort him to spite Sylvia. However James did not think that would have been likely because Yvonne had loved Barry. The fact that she had chosen to keep Thomas after he was born had hurt Sylvia enough.
Barry took it easy the next few days. Sylvia looked after him and they talked further about the renewal of their wedding vows.
“We’ll tell them all about it on Sunday,” Barry said, “James phoned earlier to say we’re going to Casa Mia.”
“Oh I’ve always fancied going there,” Sylvia gushed, “From what I’ve heard both their Spaghetti Carbonara and tiramisu dessert are delightful.”
“I’ll take you there sometime as well.” Barry held her close, “Just the two of us.”
“I’d love that. I wonder if I can still fit into my wedding dress. After all, unlike some women I have stayed more or less the same weight and not having had children helped as well. But I have two delightful children by proxy and a beautiful great niece so I couldn’t be happier.”
“I just wish that Matthew could be there.” Barry sighed. His twin had been his Best Man when he’d married Sylvia and Barry had returned the favour when Matthew had married Yvonne, although Barry and Sylvia had known that Matthew was marrying to hide his homosexual tendencies.
“Ask Thomas.” Sylvia said, “He inherited both of your dark looks.”
“That’s an idea.”
On Friday evening James and Thomas met up after work to go shopping for their respective Father’s Day gifts.
“Jayseera has bought a blue jumper for Jasmine to give Dad,” James said.
“I want to get Barry something really special.” Thomas said. “We used to give him Father’s Day cards as he brought us up like his own after mum and Matthew died. Back then though I had no idea he really was my Dad.”
“I never know what to buy my dad either,” James said, “He’s got virtually every album Joan Baez has ever done.”
“Didn’t she bring out an autobiography a few years back?” Thomas asked.
“Yes, I remember now and he doesn’t have it. I don’t know the title.”
“We’ll check in Golden Quill Books.” Thomas said. Golden Quill was Ashbeck’s largest independent bookshop. As well as modern literary phenomena they were also able to procure rare and exotic titles for the right price.”
They passed a jewellery store.
“Look Thomas,” James pointed to a sterling silver identity bracelet, “You could get Barry’s name engraved on it, yours too if you wanted. It’ll be very personal for the first Father’s Day since learning you’re his son.”
“Let’s go in and have a look.” Thomas said, “In this case I don’t mind the stereotype of gay men loving to shop, I do but only for those people who matter to me.”
The somewhat frumpy jewellery seller smiled as they went in.
Thomas selected a bracelet. The assistant said that the engraving would take about an hour, but Thomas said that was fine as they had other shopping to do. He filled in a form and was given a ticket to collect it. He paid for it with his VISA debit card.
“I really feel sorry for Rosemary at this time,” Thomas sighed, “She doesn’t have a dad.”
“But Chantelle does, so I expect she’ll busy herself taking her shopping for Ryan’s gift.” James said.
They went on to Golden Quill and straight to the biography section.
“Can I help you?” A preppy looking young man asked them.
“Yeah, we’re looking for Joan Baez’s autobiography, but I don’t know the title. My Dad is a mega fan of hers.” James said.
“And a Voice to sing with,” the young man said His name tag read Tim. “As a matter fact I think we might have some signed copies in the storeroom.”
“That would be even better.” James said.
“I’ll go and look.” Tim disappeared out the back.
Moments later he returned carrying a box of books, which he arranged on a small display table and handed the last to James.
James opened the flyleaf and took a sharp breath as he saw the signature of the only woman in the world who might give Jayseera serious competition for his father’s affections.
“Thank you.” James breathed.
“I’m here to help,” Tim said almost flirtatiously.
James paid for the book and Tim put it in a bag. They thanked him and left.
“I think he liked you,” Thomas teased,
“Shut up” James playfully swiped at his boyfriend.
They returned to the jewellers and they opened the box to show Thomas the inscription which read.
To Barry from Thomas.
Father and son reunited.
“I think that Barry will love it,” James said.
“Frank will be delighted with your gift too.” Thomas said.
“I hope so.” James said.
They went to a cafe for dinner to save them cooking.
When they got home they watched TV.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny.
“Happy Father’s Day, Daddy,” Jasmine said shyly as she placed the shiny gift in her father’s lap.
“Thank you my darling,” Frank kissed his daughter and lifted her onto his lap. He unwrapped a beautiful blue jumper with silver flecks in.
“It’ll match your eyes,” Jayseera said, pressing a mug of coffee into Frank’s hand and a glass of milk into Jasmine’s.
Thomas and James were lying in bed, exhausted after passionate love-making. They were drinking coffee.
Thomas got up and took a shower while James made breakfast
They ate together before James took his shower.
“I can’t wait to see Barry’s face when I give him that bracelet,” Thomas said.
“I can’t wait to see my dad’s face when he sees Joan Baez’s autograph in that book.” James said.
They all assembled in the foyer at Casa Mia.
“Sylvia, this is my dad, Frank,” James said, “My step-mum, Jayseera and my sister, Jasmine.”
Sylvia shook hands with them all.
“Frank, Jayseera, Jasmine, this is my sister, Rosemary, Brother-in-law, Ryan and niece, Chantelle.” Thomas said.
“It’s good to meet you again, DI Lyle.” Ryan said. They had met earlier that year while Frank was investigating the murder of John Cassidy via prescription drugs.”
“Likewise, Ryan,” Frank said.
Up until that point Jasmine and Chantelle had been very quiet but Chantelle blurted out, “James, is this your daddy?”
“Yes, it is.” James said proudly.
They moved into a seating area to wait for their table to be made ready.
Thomas handed Barry a gift-wrapped box. Barry took it and opened it.
“Thomas, it’s beautiful.” Sylvia gasped.
“Only the best for my dad,” Thomas said, giving Barry a hug.
Barry removed the bracelet, unclasped it and put it around his wrist.
“Thank you, Thomas,” he said.
James handed Frank his gift. Frank tore off the wrapper and whistled.
“I never got around to buying this when it came out,” he hugged his son, “Thanks James.”
“Look inside,” James urged. Frank opened the book and gasped.
“Wow! It means she has actually touched this very book at some stage.”
“Should I file for divorce now?” Jayseera quipped, a huge grin on her face.
“No my darling,” Frank kissed his wife, “But she’s the only woman you’d ever have to seriously compete with if she was available.”
“If you don’t mind me saying, Jayseera, you’d knock any female competition stone dead.”Ryan said.
“Thank you,” she smiled, “Frank doesn’t look at other women, but Joan Baez would be serious competition. It’s her voice he loves and I can’t sing a note.”
Dinner was a lively affair with much banter.
“Mummy, can Jasmine come to tea?” Chantelle asked.
“I’m sure she can,” Rosemary replied. She seemed a little subdued and Thomas knew it was due to the absence of her father. He sensed that his father probably felt his twin’s absence the most acutely. He was of course aware that there were many children with absent fathers, either because the mother’s themselves did not know their children’s true paternity or they hadn’t been able to see them for dust from the moment the words “I’m pregnant” escaped their lips. There were also cases where kids might have had a better life had the father been absent. Thomas thought of Heather and Charlotte, twin girls he’d never met, but who would have had a better earlier life if their now late and unlamented father, Bob Kenyon, had been absent from it.
While they were waiting for the dessert Barry cleared his throat.
“Just so you all know, Sylvia and I celebrate our thirty-first anniversary next month and we’ve decided to renew our wedding vows.”
“That’s awesome, Dad.” Thomas said and they all added their congratulations.
“Barry and I have been through one hell of a lot together,” Sylvia said, clasping her husband’s hand, “And I love him more today than when we made those vows for the first time.”
After the dinner they all went their separate ways.
“I felt for Rosemary,” Sylvia said, “She was putting on a brave face, but I know she was wishing her dad could have been there.”
“It was hard for me too, Sylv. Alright I had my son there, but still I felt Matthew’s absence.”
That evening Barry was having a shave. The mirror was steamed up.
Barry went to wipe it but it cleared and he held his breath.
Behind him, in the mirror stood another man with the same dark hair and eyes. The spider’s web tattooed on the second man’s neck was vivid.
“Barry you’ve done good.” Matthew said although the lips in the mirror did not move, “Thomas has done you proud. Yvonne could not deal with what I was so she would have rejected her own beloved son, but I somehow knew and I’m glad he found what eluded me. He has better taste in men than I ever did.”
“Those were different times,” Barry said quietly.
“True, but there will always be prejudice.”
“It’s the world we live in, Matthew.” Barry said, “I just wish I’d been able to protect my own son.”
“They got him, Barry, Hopefully he’ll get buggered in his turn while he’s inside. But Thomas did the right thing; he tried to protect those he loved even though he didn’t know what you really were to him at that time. I’m so proud of my daughter, too.”
“She’ a lovely young woman,” Barry said. He sighed. “I miss you, Matt.”
“I know Baz, but I’m always here for you even though you’re not aware.”
“I’ve always known,” Barry replied, “I love you Matt.”
“I love you too,” Matthew said. Barry really wanted to turn around to see if Matthew was standing there behind him in spirit, but something told him not to.
“I have to go,” Matthew said, “They don’t allow us to visit for too long.”
The glass misted over again and when it cleared Barry was alone, wondering if he had imagined the whole thing. Right then he knew that this was something he would never tell Sylvia or Thomas about. It was private, between twins, and it would stay that way.
That night Barry Fox had the most restful night’s sleep he had ever known.
Author note: The Joan Baez autobiography “And a Voice to sing with.” really DOES exist. I can see my copy from where I am sitting. Sadly though, mine is not signed.