Two weeks since the pizza dinner saw the kids sitting around in the caravan whilst Ella was holed up in her assigned bedroom.
“I think we need to get someone.” Toby murmured gesturing to the bedroom where his Mum was sleeping. “She’s been like this all day.”
“Who do you propose we get?” Mike asked looking up from his laptop and over at his brother. “Oh no,” he added seeing his brother’s expression. “After the ear-bashing, I got for bringing him here the first time.”
“Mike.” Gabby’s quiet voice interrupted the beginnings of an argument. “Mum is sick. Properly sick. You know that otherwise, she wouldn’t have spent all day in bed.”
“Fine.” He muttered.
Looking down at his laptop he closed down the programme he was using and put it to one side before giving them a look.
“I’m going to go to the diner.” He told them.
Toby looked at him about to suggest he went along too before he looked at Gabby and nodded instead. He watched as Mike swapped his thongs and put on his trainers before grabbing his phone and going out the door. It clattered shut behind him as he sprinted off, taking the shortcut to the beach first and then jogging along toward the diner.
A sheen of sweat covered his body and he vaguely remembered that he hadn’t put sunscreen on before coming out. He could feel his shoulders burning even as he ran and knew that his Mum would have words with him. Finally, he reached the diner and walked inside panting from his excursion. He looked around for Roman and sighed when he didn’t see him straight away. Moving over to the counter he waited patiently before Colleen moved over towards him.
“Can I have a water please?” he asked politely. “And a word with Mr. Harris.”
She gave him a funny look before handing him a bottle of water.
“That will be $2, young man.” Colleen murmured giving him a look again.
Mike put his hand in his pocket and took out the money handing it over. He hid his grin when she checked the money before ringing up the purchase in the till.
“And er… Roman?” he asked finding pronouncing the name funny and his thoughts drifted back to the dinner their first night when Toby had kept using it with that funny look on his face waiting for him to answer instead of the other man.
“Who shall I say is asking,” she muttered looking at him suspiciously.
“Tell him it’s Mike.” He told her refusing to add his last name.
Colleen gave him another look before she bustled into the kitchen and he heard muffled talking before Roman appeared at the counter.
“Mike?” he asked quickly.
“Could I have a word please sir?” Mike asked formally.
He glanced around the busy diner seeing customers sitting at most of the tables before looking back at the tall man the other side of the counter. Hopefully, he would get the hint, Mike thought knowing he was frowning.
“Ok,” Roman said and gestured outside before speaking a few words with Colleen.
Mike walked outside just ahead of the other man before turning and standing; he shielded his eyes with his hand and waited.
“What’s the matter?” Roman asked quickly.
“It’s Mum, she’s sick,” Mike answered just as quickly. “Like seriously.”
Roman looked at the kid and bit back a sigh. He had been supposedly going over to the farmhouse later to see Lindsay but he suspected that plan was going to pot now.
Mike opened the bottle and looked around for the bin to put the rubbish in. He couldn’t see one nearby so put the wrapper from the bottle into his pocket unaware that Roman grinned at that action. Taking a long swallow of the cool water he sighed before looking up and catching Roman looking at him.
“Here,” Roman murmured holding out his car keys. “Go get into my car, I’ll just let them know that an emergency has come up.”
Mike nodded and reached out taking the keys from him before moving away to the car park. Roman watched him go before moving back inside the diner. He spoke quietly to Colleen and heard her moaning before she nodded and agreed that she could handle things until Leah got there. Shrugging out of the white chef’s jacket he wore and hanging it up he moved out of the diner and jogged over to his car grinning at Mike sitting in the front seat with his seat belt already done up. He climbed behind the wheel and looked across at the boy. Michael’s kid. He still couldn’t believe it. He had the look of the other man about him, but also a bit of Ella. He supposed that was due to the way they were so close.
“Ok, so what is wrong with her?” he asked starting the car and pulling out of the parking bay.
“She caught a cold, must have been coming down with it for days and well, she went to bed last night and didn’t get up this morning.” Mike murmured in a rush.
“I take it that she doesn’t know you’ve fetched me?” Roman asked and saw from the colour entering Mike’s face that the answer was yes.
“No, sir.” Mike murmured confirming.
“Soon be there,” Roman said slowly his eyes on the boy next to him. He could tell from the way he was acting that this had never happened before and he found himself frowning. Surely Ella had had colds or flu occasionally?
“I know,” Mike told him quietly.
“Look, Kid,” Roman began.
“Mike,” Roman murmured, corrected. “People get sick all the time, sometimes they just need what your Mum has done, a day out.”
Mike turned and pinned Roman with his gaze for a long moment before the older man returned his attention back to the road.
“My mother does not get sick. She does not have timeouts.” He enunciated clearly.
“I’ve obviously touched upon a sore subject,” Roman said softly. “I’m sorry.”
Mike sighed and looked out of the window for the rest of the journey until the car pulled up outside the caravan. He shot out before the engine had even been turned off and moved inside looking at Toby and Gabby.
“Oh Mike, you forgot sunscreen,” Gabby said softly jumping up and going into the bedroom where their mother was. She glanced at the figure underneath all the blankets and sighed before tiptoeing over to the shelf beside the bed and retrieving a bottle of aftersun. This in her hand she retreated to where Mike was sitting and began matter-of-factly administering the cream to his burnt shoulders.
“Hello,” Roman called from the doorway his eyes going around the kids.
“She’s in there.” Mike pointed to the door of the bedroom where his mum was and ignored the curious looks everyone was giving him.
Gabby recapped the bottle and put it in reach of Mike before going over to the little sink and washing her hands. After drying them she led the way to her mother’s bedroom, opening the door for Roman, and then closing it behind him.
“Ell,.” Roman called out approaching the bed.
He saw the figure stir before he called her name again and moved to sit on the bed, his hand going out to peel back the covers.
“s’alright.” She croaked out. “Get up in a min.”
Roman chuckled softly before placing his hand on her forehead. He drew it back when he felt how hot it was.
“Okay, are you dressed under there?”
“What are you planning?” she muttered pushing back the covers. “Because I’m not that sort of girl” she added her voice dropping down to a hoarse whisper.
Roman sighed before he lifted her in his arms and began carrying her out of the bedroom and into the sitting room. He felt her start to tremble with the cold and sighed again before sitting her down in the Caravan’s small sitting room.
“Gabby can you grab a blanket?” he instructed and saw her running to fetch it. He smiled and that before glancing at Mike and Toby. “While your Mum recovers I’m going to take you home with me.”
“What? No?” Mike shot out jumping up to his feet.
“Mike.” Toby murmured standing and placing his hand on Mike’s shoulder. “We should do it. We can’t take care of Mum.”
Mike glared at his brother before nodding slowly as he worked through the logic of the situation.
“Can you pack your things? Enough for a few nights at least?” Roman asked slowly.
Mike gave Toby another look before they moved to organise packing.
“Here.” Gabby told Roman shyly as she handed over the blanket.
“Thank you.” Roman murmured quietly to her. He gave her a smile before wrapping Ella up in the blanket. “Can you pack some things for your Mum as well as you?” he asked her and saw her nod her cheeks flushing.
The next hour seemed to fly by as he organised the kids and Ella and taking them back to his place. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to anyone, least of all Martha and knew that she’d use it as an excuse for him to stop seeing Lindsay. He’d put Ella in his bed sighing as she snuggled down in the bed, for some reason it seemed as though she belonged there, before calling Rachel over. Then whilst waiting for the other woman he’d sorted out where Toby and Mike were to sleep before showing Gabby Nic’s room. The two of them would have to share and he knew that his elder daughter wouldn’t like that. In fact he could bet on it, even though a part of him wanted some of Gabby’s qualities to rub off on her older sister.
Moving to the door to open it, he greeted Rachel and showed her upstairs to his room where Ella was. He could feel the other woman giving him an assessing look before she saw the kids. Her expression changed her mouth tightening as she grew angry on Martha’s behalf. He met her gaze evenly before walking out of the room and leaving her with Ella.
“Have you kids eaten?” he asked for something to say as soon as he was downstairs again and grinned when Mike spoke for them again, telling him no, they hadn’t. He moved into the kitchen and quickly put together some sandwiches and drinks smiling as they moved to sink and washed their hands before sitting down at the table to eat.
Looking up he spotted Rachel coming down the stairs and he quickly walked over to her.
“She’s got a chest infection. I’ve left a prescription with her.” Rachel told him, her voice clipped.
“Thanks for coming.” He said evenly and could see her gaze going past him to the kids. He opened the door and showed her out before following her.
“Kids? More kids?” Rachel shot out.
“Yeah,” Roman confirmed.
“So how many have you fathered now?”
He shrugged before grinning at Rachel.
“Pretty sure there are no others around,” he told her grinning. “not sure I could afford anymore anyway.”
Rachel continued to glare at him before her lips twitched.
“Plenty of rest and lots of fluids. Make sure she takes the antibiotics.”
Roman chuckled before catching Rachel’s look. “I’m used to dangerous missions I’m sure I can persuade Ella to do as she’s told.”
Roman nodded. “Yeah.”
“She said her name was Elizabeth.”
He grinned at that, “Her name is Elizabeth Louise Laura Addison.” He murmured thinking back to when he’d first met her. “Her initials were printed on her camera strap when we met. I read them out thinking it was her name and by the time we’d got around to telling each other names it was too late, I knew her as Ella.”
Roman looked down at his hands and missed Rachel smiling at him because she hadn’t seen that look on his face for a long time, not even in the early days of his marriage to Martha had he looked like he was truly happy.
She suspected that there was a lot more behind that story and she wanted to hear it sometime, making a note to tell Tony and Leah about this. Roman and a mystery woman. She nodded before walking away and going to her car, one thing was for certain, Martha was not going to be happy about this turn of events.