“Careful kid!” Roman called out as he was forced to sidestep a young boy moving excitedly into the diner. Turning, he balanced the weight of the tray again before he collected the last of the glasses from the table in front of him. He stopped suddenly and looked over at the counter where the young boy was ordering from Colleen. He could have walked past his kids at any time over the past few years and not even known they existed. The thought made him angry. He should have been told, should have had a choice in how his kids were raised. He’d already been denied one child when Natalie and her family had kept him out of Nicole’s life when she was younger. He wouldn’t go through that again not now he knew what he was missing out on.
Sighing he cleared the rest of the table and wiped it down with a damp cloth before moving over to the next one and repeating the action. Normally he didn’t mind the repetitive work but recently he was starting to feel more and more uneasy about it like something was missing.
“Hey, Kid.” He called out to the boy who had bumped into him earlier as he moved out of the diner empty-handed.
“Yes, Sir?” Mike asked stilling and looking over at him.
“Sir?” Roman murmured. “I look that old?”
“Oh no er.. sir,” Mike said alternating his weight from one foot to the other as he stood there.
Roman laughed watching him for a moment before he asked, “Didn’t we have anything to tempt you?”
“Well, er, no.” Mike muttered quickly seeming to only just stop himself from adding another ‘Sir’ to it.
“Well,” Roman smiled at hearing that unspoken ‘Sir’ and looked over at him. “Maybe there is something we could do for you?”
Mike shook his head quickly.
“Sure?” Roman asked.
“Sure, sir.” He murmured politely. “My mother sent me to see if you did takeaways.” He explained slowly.
“Well, not in the general sense.” Roman began to explain.
“Like pizzas.” Mike interjected.
“Well no.” Roman smiled and glanced at his watch. “What toppings do you want?”
“S..Sir?” Mike stuttered.
“I can knock up a couple of pizzas.” Roman decided.
Mike nodded and looked at his watch.
“Do you have to be somewhere?”
“I should really go back to the van.” Mike told him quickly.
“Are you staying at the caravan park?” Roman asked him as he moved inside and placed the tray on the top before moving around the counter and clearing it.
“I’m going to get off,” Colleen called out coming out of the kitchen and walking past them. She bustled into her jacket and put a multi-coloured scarf around her neck. “you back here, young man, I told you that we don’t do that kind of thing.”
“It’s alright Colleen, I’ve got this,” Roman said quickly.
He watched her disappear before turning and moving over to the door, closing it and putting up the closed sign before looking back at the boy. “Now then, pizza.” He smiled and walked past him back into the kitchen. Within five minutes he’d made two pizza bases and looked over at Mike. “Toppings?” he asked slowly.
“Well, my mother and sister share vegetarian toppings. “ Mike began.
“And I bet that leaves the meat for you?”
Roman grinned at the ‘sir’ again and saw the boy flushing. He didn’t say anything as he sorted out the two different toppings and then slotted them into the oven to cook.
“Do you want drinks?” he asked.
Mike looked at him and nodded going over to the tall fridge and taking out two tall bottles of fizzy soda. “Do you think we could get a salad too?” he asked slowly.
“How are you paying for this kid?”
Mike slowly coloured as he put his hand in his pocket and took out thirty dollars. “Is this enough, sir?” he asked formally.
“Right let’s see.” Roman began going over to the till. He put in the price of the drinks and the takeaway salad and then worked out a cost for the pizzas before taking the notes from Mike and sorting out the change and handing it over to him.
“Thank you, sir,” Mike said politely glancing at the clock.
“I’ve got to go visit Miles. I can give you a lift if that helps.”
“Er..” Mike hesitated.
Roman turned his attention to the salad. He piled up the takeaway box with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion and placed it in a carrier with the soda bottles before taking the pizzas out of the oven and set about wrapping them in foil to keep warm.
“Okay.” He said to him and handed over the pizzas and the carrier bag.
Mike looked at him and then the food as though weighing up how he was going to carry everything.
“If you are sure about the lift, sir, I’d appreciate it.”
Roman nodded quickly, “Just give me two minutes,” he said turning and double checking the kitchen was closed down for the night before he began switching off the lights as he moved over to the door.
Mike kept glancing at him, knowing that this man was the twins father was weird. He couldn’t help thinking about how much they looked like him. They were going to be so jealous he’d met him. Just as that thought went through his head the tall man offered him a lift to the caravan park and before he knew it he’d accepted. He couldn’t imagine what his mum was going to say but he thought it would probably involve the swear words that she muttered in another language so they didn’t know what she was saying. With a groan, he collected the food before walking through the door waiting just outside as Roman locked up the diner after them. Then he was shown over to Roman’s car, indicating that he should put the food in the back before getting into the passenger side.
“Are you here for a holiday?” Roman asked him as he pulled the car out of the parking lot and on to the road.
“Sort of sir.” Mike murmured and felt the heat in his cheeks at the look that Roman gave him at still being addressed as ‘Sir’. He couldn’t help it, he was used to calling his elders sir, and bit his lip as he focused on the view out of the front windscreen trying to will the colour from his face. He thought about his mother and Roman meeting again and paled immediately. Perhaps he could swing it so they didn’t but then she’d want to know how he’d got the food and oh er, crap. Yeah, crap suited this situation and he could get away with using it because after all, it was his first word.
“You okay?” Roman asked, pulling the car into the driveway to the house.
“Just.. er… hungry.” Mike murmured biting his lip as he lied.
“Okay, son,” Roman said slowly.
Mike started at the endearment and felt something shudder through him. He didn’t have a father but the twins did and now everything was going to change. Whilst he was lost in thought Roman had slowed the car and was looking at him.
“What caravan are you in?” Roman asked.
“Four,” Mike answered before he could stop himself. He groaned as Roman steered the car and took them straight to the right caravan and turned off the engine. He’d even unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for the door handle before Mike could say anything. Swiveling in the seat he watched in horror as the door of the caravan opened and he paled even more.
‘Double crap,’ Mike thought, quickly climbing out of the car.
Roman climbed out of the car and moved around the back. He was focused on the food until he noticed a pair of jean covered legs coming out of the van. Looking up his eyes travelled over the figure until he saw her face. Now he knew why he’d cooked the pizza and insisted on giving the kid a lift. Something about him reminded him of Ella. Sucking in a sharp breath he stood and faced her. His past. Something cosmic seemed to swirl between them as if time were somehow trying to right itself and he dismissed the thought as soon as he had it despite the prickle of unease that crawled down his spine.
“Ella.” He said slowly, gravely, and closing his eyes for just one second to check he wasn’t imagining her there in front of him.
“I asked for pizza.” She murmured her hands going to her hips. “Not a chef.”
Roman smiled and looked over at Mike who’d jumped out of the car and was standing next to it, transferring his weight from one foot to the other like he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t. Now he knew why he’d felt something familiar about him.
“We like to give value for money.” He said eventually. “Are they here too?”
Ella nodded and waved to the van behind her before she walked over to where Roman was standing.
“Come in if you like.” She invited reaching out and picking up the bag. She held it out and Mike somewhat hesitantly took it from her and ran inside before she and Roman picked out the pizzas.
“Is this a good idea?” Roman muttered only realising he’d spoken aloud when Ella glared at him before she stalked inside the van.
“Here,” She said handing out the pizza and turned to see Roman standing behind her. He too helped out with the food his mouth hanging open as he looked at his kids.
“So who are you?” he asked Mike.
“I’m Ro… Mike.” Mike murmured. “Michael and Jennie’s son.”
“Ah,” Roman said not noticing the slip even though Gabby and Toby were giggling.
“Sit down, “ Ella said smirking at him as he automatically obeyed her. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at her before looking over at the twins.
“Which one is which?” he asked and grinned as they laughed at him.
“I’m Toby,” Toby muttered glaring as Mike chuckled.
Ella watched as her children interacted with Roman wondering why she hadn’t packed emergency vodka for this moment because it certainly qualified. He was speaking to Gabby in a gentle voice and she felt suddenly jealous like she was being pushed out. Of course, he had to be great with kids, she thought, wasn’t he great with everybody? Why shouldn’t kids fall under his spell too?
Her eyes flicked to him and she noted all the changes since she’d last seen him. Laugh lines around the corner of his eyes. His hair was longer, he’d kept it in a buzz cut in Afghanistan and now she could see the blond in it. A glance down and she looked at his hands, the same hands that had made this food. Only she’d known that he’d cooked back in the day, often being surprised at what he’d managed to cobble together on her small stove.
Her thoughts drifted suddenly to the things he’d also managed to do on her small bed and she knew that her face was filling with colour. Dammit, she muttered silently inside her head. This was why you should never travel without emergency vodka. She tried to cover up by taking another slice of pizza, which was of course, amazing but she wasn’t that hungry and had to force herself to sit there and chew whilst Roman and her kids were bonding, even Mike was looking at the man starry-eyed.