Posted on 2014-08-25
Lizzy Bennet (@LizzyBee): A man who remembers your coffee order is just irresistible. #ilovecaffeine
Lizzy Bennet (@LizzyBee): Especially when he serves it to you in bed. #nudgenudgewinkwink
Anne Elliot (@ACElliot): @LizzyBee *raises eyebrow*
Elinor Dashwood-Ferrars (@EDashwood): *catcalls*
Caroline Bingley (@CarolineB.): *wolfwhistles*
Henry Tilney (@whatahenry): @LizzyBee *smirks knowingly*
Emma Woodhouse (@AskMissWoodhouse): Who would have thought #SharkGuy had it in him.
Lizzy Bennet (@LizzyBee): It's a good thing I dwell in the gutter. My friends are all there.
Kitty blindly made her way to the underground station in a fog of tears, glad she knew the way from earlier in the morning. She could not even begin to understand how everything could have taken such a downward turn in such a short amount of time. She had never before felt so betrayed and let down in her entire life. All along, her subconscious had known that there was something wrong with Ash, that what she had felt with him was too good to be true, but she had not listened, and there now she had received her deserts.
How could he, she thought, how could the man whom she had thought everything good and honourable, whom she had praised for his responsibility and integrity, how could he be so callous as to be doing such a thing - and keeping it from her? Granted, they had not had a talk about exclusivity per se, but she had thought that it had been pretty heavily implied in all the ways he had made her out to be something special. She also thought that a part-time live-in boyfriend was something that should have been mentioned way before any of the events of the previous night took place - and she did not even want to dwell on the fact that the boy was underage. All the other things, she thought, might merely show the difference between her own naivete and Ash's worldliness - but how could someone who appeared to be so fundamentally good, show such an appalling lack of morals? Every feeling revolted at the idea that Ash could be doing something that was so obviously wrong, not just in the eyes of the law, but simply according to basic decency.
Further and further into the depths of horror her thoughts swirled, so that she hardly noticed how her feet carried her out of the underground and towards her flat on their own accord. She stood in front of her door for the second time that day, searching for her keys in her bag, when she became aware again of where she was, and briefly wondered how she had got there.
Lizzy was home, apparently just returned from her own date, which seemed to have ended considerably better than Kitty's. She was humming to herself as she flitted through their tiny living-room, picking up things here and there to give the room a more presentable look.
'Darcy's coming over in a bit to pick me up,' she said without turning around, 'and he expressed an interest in seeing the flat - I hope you don't mind -'
'No, it's fine,' Kitty said and sniffed. 'I'll be in my room, I won't disturb you.'
She dropped her keys into their bowl and willed her feet to drag her to her room, with little success. Lizzy turned around and saw her still standing just behind the door, rooted to the spot.
'Dear, whatever is the matter?' she said and dropped the scarf she'd picked up back onto the sofa.
Kitty just shook her head, unable to speak through the tears that, having loomed in her eyes all through the ride home, were now finally breaking lose. Lizzy took her bag from her hands and led her over to the sofa, where Kitty buried her head in Lizzy's shoulder and released her pain in great sobs.
'Ash - is - a total bastard,' she finally managed to say through hiccoughing tears. 'A disgusting - pig.'
Having found a way to vent her emotions, she moved on to stronger, oddly liberating epithets that made her feel at least a little better. She noticed Lizzy trying to suppress a chuckle.
'At least leave the man's poor mother out of it,' she said. 'What happened?'
Through more hiccoughing and tears, and a liberal use of more curses, Kitty relayed the story of the wonderful evening she had had and the rude awakening that had followed.
'Why does this always happen to me?' she said through sniffles. 'Is this all like a grand joke being played upon me?'
'I don't quite follow you,' Lizzy said.
'It's just,' Kitty explained, 'why can't I ever meet someone just normal? Someone whose worst fault is that he clips his toenails in bed or, I don't know - why does it have to be someone who is so obviously perfect, until I find out that he's a disgusting pervert pig who is into kids?'
She blew her nose.
'Of course I should have known,' she cried. 'He seemed so wonderful, and perfect, it was obvious there had to be some kind of catch, I'm never lucky enough to land anyone who's actually nice - not just nice, but good. Or at least not bloody horrible.'
Lizzy rubbed her back.
'Can I just ask,' she said, 'are you really, one hundred per cent, sure, that this Max guy was a boytoy?'
'What other explanation is there?' Kitty wailed. 'He was naked in his flat!'
'Yes, but you said he has dozens of cousins,' Lizzy said, 'and that he's very close with his family - couldn't that just be one of the cousins staying over? Or a friend?'
'I don't know,' Kitty had to admit, 'he didn't say - but he was naked, Lizzy. Naked!'
She began to wail again.
'He was taking a shower, though,' Lizzy pointed out. 'People do tend to get naked in the shower.'
She handed Kitty another handkerchief.
'All I am saying,' she said, 'is, that if you look at it objectively, it's not the most likely - not the most logical explanation that this Max is Ash's underage lover. Statistically, I would say that boytoys are much rarer than cousins.'
'Oh, I don't know,' Kitty wailed. 'In the moment, it seemed to make so much sense. It was the first thing that popped into my brain.'
She reached for yet another handkerchief.
'Okay, but if you just look at the evidence,' Lizzy said, 'was there anything that proved beyond a doubt that he was a boytoy?'
'I guess not as such,' Kitty cried, 'but why, Lizzy? Why would my brain suggest that in the first place? There must have been something my subconscious noticed, otherwise why would I think that?'
'Maybe that's not what your subconscious wanted to tell you,' Lizzy said.
Kitty looked up from the handkerchief with which she was just about to blow her nose.
'Huh?' she managed through her snotty nose.
'Look,' Lizzy said, 'you said you thought he was just perfect, so maybe your subconscious thought he was too perfect, and was trying to find a fault.'
'He was absolutely perfect,' Kitty cried, 'it was the best date I ever had, it was the best sex I ever had, it was all just so wonderful and he was so kind and generous and so responsible, he was the perfect man and then he turned out to be a vile slimy disgusting pig person!'
'Yes, but let's just say,' Lizzy said, 'let's just say, hypothetically, that he wasn't a vile pig person and didn't have an underage kid in his flat -'
'Then he would absolutely be the man of dreams,' Kitty wailed, 'and I wouldn't even deserve him because he's so rich, and clever, and handsome and experienced and - and everything -'
'Well, there you have it,' Lizzy said. 'Obviously your subconscious thinks you're not good enough for him and -'
Kitty nodded to show her agreement with her subconscious and was about to say something, but Lizzy wouldn't let her.
'Now, first of all,' she said, 'Kitty, you absolutely are good enough for Ash, because you are a wonderful person, and if he says he wants you, then you should not doubt that.'
'But who am I compared to him?' Kitty cried. 'I'm only twenty-two, and I don't have any money, I don't even have a real job, I live in a shack, I am just not as clever as him, I've seen nothing of the world, like he has -'
'I grant you the shack,' Lizzy said, 'but you are clever, Kitty, and what's more, you're a good person, and a kind person, and Ash can be happy to know you, and obviously he does want to know you because he wanted to spend time with you. He told you so often how important your date was to him, how much he valued you, so maybe it was time you started believing him. After all, he is old enough to know what he wants.'
'But how can he ever love me?' Kitty cried. 'We're so different. He'll realise we have nothing in common and -'
'Yes, of course,' Lizzy said. 'Look, Kitty, there is no guarantee that you and he will be happy forever, or that this is meant to be long-term, and I can't promise you anything about what Ash thinks, but look at what you had. You said you had a great time, that you had so much fun and that he made you feel good -'
Kitty started sobbing again and Lizzy pulled her close again, letting her cry into her shoulder once more.
'Let's just suppose,' she said, 'that this thing with Max resolves itself - and of course, if it turns out that Ash is a disgusting pervert after all, then of course you have to get out of there - but let's just say it's not what you think - then maybe you should not ruin everything by constantly trying to find bumps in the road. Because if you go into it thinking the relationship is jinxed, then it's going to be jinxed, because all your fears are going to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you are willing to give the two of you a chance, then you have to be more confident of what the two of you could be.'
'I do not think you are not good enough for Ash,' Lizzy reiterated, 'and not just because I love you, Kitty, but because you are a wonderful person, and you are smart, and so it's true you don't have as much money as Ash has, and you're younger than him, and you have vastly different backgrounds, but that only means that there are so many things you can learn from each other. Maybe you're just meant to complement each other.'
She stroked Kitty's hair.
'If it turns out,' she said, 'that Ash is not a vile pig, then maybe you should give him a chance, if it was as wonderful as you say.'
Half of Kitty was ready to scream at Lizzy that she could not just explain away what she, Kitty, had seen with her own eyes, that Ash was having a naked minor in his flat, that there was simply no way that this could be resolved, that any of this could be excused, but then a part of her was relieved to consider Lizzy's arguments and thought them logical and convincing. Of course, that part of her then also realised that if Lizzy was right, and Ash just had the potential to be perfect for her, then she, Kitty, had just done her very best to chase him away, and was unlikely to ever get another chance with him.
She blew her nose again, noticing that the tears finally had stopped, at least for the moment. She felt - not relieved, not that at all - but at least calmer than she had before, and also sadder, in a way, now that all that had happened had had time to sink in. Most of all, she felt like she desperately needed some chocolate, but Lizzy must have been reading her thoughts, for she was already rummaging through the magazine stacks on their tiny coffee table to find the box of Cadbury's from Thursday night. She had eaten two of them and was just reaching for a third when the doorbell rang. Kitty's heart jumped in her chest. Lizzy, however, went to the window and looked outside, and reported that it was only Shark Guy, come to pick her up.
'Just give me a sec,' she said, reaching for her keys, 'I'll just quickly pop downstairs and let him know now's not a good time, I'll be back in a jiffy -'
'No, no, it's fine,' Kitty said. 'You go and have fun.'
'Oh, Kitty, no, I couldn't leave you alone now,' Lizzy said. 'I'll stay, really -'
'No, go,' Kitty said. 'It's fine. Honestly. I'll watch Casablanca, and I'll have a good cry, and then I'll be much better.'
'Are you quite sure?' Lizzy asked.
'Yes,' Kitty repeated. 'Quite. I'll finish up the ice-cream in the freezer and everything will be much better.'
Lizzy gave her another hug.
'I think you should try to find out for certain what happened though,' she said. 'If only to know what you're at once and for all.'
'I will phone Ash,' Kitty said, 'not just right now. I'll explain why I ran and I'll give him a chance to explain himself and - and maybe he will, and if not, he's a vile pig and I'll eat a metric ton of chocolate and, well -'
The doorbell rang again. Kitty grabbed the box of handkerchiefs and the chocolates and carried them to her room, not wishing to meet the Shark Guy just then.
'Go, have fun,' she said. 'I'll be fine.'
Lizzy blew her a kiss and buzzed him in, but before Kitty could completely close the door to her bedroom behind her, she called, 'you should eat an Imperial ton, it's larger.'
Through her closed door, Kitty, rummaging through her still-unpacked boxes to find her DVD of Casablanca, could hear Shark Guy and Lizzy laughing and talking in the living-room before Lizzy poked her head through Kitty's door again and asked, 'Could I borrow your gym bag? Because Darcy wants to take me rowing, and I'd like to have something that can get a little wet -'
'Sure, no problem,' Kitty said and threw the bag across the tiny room for Lizzy to catch.
'Thanks,' Lizzy said, 'and remember, if he does turn out to be a vile pig, just hang up and report him to the police and you'll never have to see him again.'
Kitty managed a weak smile.
'Thanks, Lizzy,' she said. 'Have fun.'
'Who's a vile pig?' she heard Shark Guy ask in the living-room.
'Oh, Kitty was out with this guy and -'
Her door closed again and thankfully Kitty could not hear the rest of the story. Soon after that, she heard the door to their flat shut and she was alone. She had found the DVD by then and made her way back to the living-room, cradling chocolates, hankies, DVD and her laptop in her arms. She set herself up on the sofa with the laptop and was soon immersed in the timeless tale of love, war and despair. She made good on her promise to cry and eat chocolates. It was only when the DVD froze barely twenty minutes in that she noticed that she was down to the last chocolate and that it had begun to rain outside, which she thought only fitting. She started jiggling the DVD slot but as usual, it would not budge and also would not continue playing the DVD.
Slamming the laptop on the cushion next to her, Kitty stood up. She realised she had begun to cry again as she pondered the fact that most everything she owned was, in fact, rubbish. She resolutely blew her nose once again. Drawn by the rain, she walked over to the window, thinking that with the DVD not working, staring dejectedly into the grey skies might be just the thing to do. Briefly she wondered how Lizzy was faring on her boat trip, whether she had already been on the water when the rain started or whether she and Shark Guy had managed to stay dry.
She quickly let go of these thoughts though and instead focused her gaze onto the puddles of rain forming in the street and on the pavement, and the people passing through them. Some lucky ones were carrying umbrellas, others only had jackets to pull over their heads. Kitty observed the guy from the newsagent's across the street standing on the doorstep of his shop and smoking, and then a throng of people exiting the underground station a little down the street. Twice her heart beat faster when she thought she had seen Ash amongst the crowd. She was about to chide her mind for playing such cruel tricks on her when it happened a third time, only to realise that this time, it was indeed Ash. He had neither an umbrella nor a jacket to protect him from the rain, and his blue shirt was already soaked through. Raindrops were dripping from his nose and trickling from his wet hair down his neck. He looked utterly forlorn. Kitty had to suppress the thought that there was simply no way that this man, this absolutely perfect man, could be a vile pig. She was not going to let her subconscious decide the matter one way or another. Only cold, hard, rational facts were going to matter.
She had thought that once he had freed himself from the small crowd emerging from the underground, he would cross the street and ring her doorbell, but instead, he just stood there, alone in the rain, staring up at her flat, apparently without realising that she was watching him from inside. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to her, she could stand the suspense no longer. She pushed up the window and leaned outside, not caring that she too now was getting soaked.
'Ash,' she called. 'It's raining!'
'Helen,' Ash called back, 'I -'
He broke off and appeared at a loss what to say.
'What on earth are you doing there standing there in the rain?' Kitty called.
'Trying to gather the courage to ring your bell,' Ash called back.
Passers-by had stopped in their tracks in spite of the rain and were mustering Ash with undisguised curiousity. It could not be long until someone would recognise him, Kitty thought.
'Well, come on up, then,' she called. 'You'll catch your death out there.'
Ash took a moment before he began to move, but then he sprinted acros the street and up the steps. Kitty buzzed him in and a moment later, there he stood on their doormat, completely soaked, dripping rain.
'Helen,' he said again, 'I am so utterly, utterly sorry about what happened -'
His teeth began to shatter, but he still stood there on her doorstep and hardly seemed to notice. Kitty grabbed his wrist, pulled him inside and shoved him into the bathroom.
'Use one of the pink towels, those are mine,' she said, pulling the door close. 'And the striped bathrobe.'
She did not even have the time to gather her thoughts before he reappeared, wearing her bathrobe and one of her towels flung across his shoulders in a way that brought the image of Max back painfully. Only now did he seem to take in the surroundings, with the laptop frozen on Bogey's face, the empty box of chocolates next to it, and the used handkerchiefs all over the sofa. Kitty tried to brush the handkerchiefs to the side and sat down. Ash followed her suit.
'Again, Helen, I am so sorry,' he said. 'I - I shouldn't have just left, but I didn't know he would be there, and - I don't know what you must think of me now -'
'I thought a lot of very bad things,' Kitty admitted, 'and if any of them are actually true I will never want to have anything to do with you again, but Lizzy convinced me that it was probably not at all what it looked like.'
Ash sighed. 'I am afraid that it was exactly what it looked like,' he said.
Kitty began to feel sick.
'I am sorry,' Ash said yet again. 'I should have told you sooner, but his mother and I try to keep him out of the spotlight as much as we can.'
'His mother and -' Kitty replied weakly. 'Max is -'
'- my son, yes,' Ash said. 'Why, what -'
'But that is wonderful!' Kitty exclaimed. Relief flooded through her, and for a second she thought she might be able to fly. 'You have a son!'
'A rebellious teenage son, of whom, I should add, I am not ashamed, even if it may look like that, the way I behaved,' Ash said. 'What did you think?'
'It does not matter,' Kitty said, 'or actually, it does, and we should talk about my stupid insecurities and the stupid things they make me do, but right now I am just so happy Max is your son and -'
She was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that Ash was not wearing anything apart from her short bathrobe and she reached out to place a hand on his thigh.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): It's so nice to be reminded of where I stand in my father's life. I'm sure I rank somewhere below second cousin twice removed Queenie.
Samuel Wilson (@samthedestroyer): What happened? PS Parents are threatening to complain about us to the headmaster.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): I guess in his universe a son isn't something one needs to tell a girlfriend about. And he wonders why he's single (Suck up this weekend).
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): I walked into her coming out of the shower.
Samuel Wilson (@samthedestroyer): At least it wasn't the other way around. Oh wait she'd probably still be a looker right? So awkward weekend all round?
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): Nah. I told him if he treated all his GFs as shittily as he treated me no wonder they all run out on him which is just what I did.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): Heading to people who actually care about me now.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @themaxxiemax don't be so aggro on twitter it hurts my brain.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @themaxxiemax what is that about your father having a girlfriend?
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Uh, slowly events of the last night are coming back to me.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): @lordfreddie Piss Off.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): I guess there *might* have been a girl ... but can't focus thoughts it hurts my brain.
Lizzy Bennet (@LizzyBee): That awkward moment when your date falls into the lake and climbs out and you don't quite know what to say. tinyurl.com/njxjb2w
DM @LordFreddie -> @themaxxiemax: Seriously what did he do?
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: I don't want to talk about it.
DM @lordfreddie -> @themaxxiemax: Dude, you are already now spill it.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: Gf had no idea who I was until I told her.
DM @themaxxiemax ? @lordfreddie: When dad came home he was more upset that she'd gone off probably in a snit cause he never meant to tell her about me I guess.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: He was pissed off I told her I was his son! As though I should have done what? Played myself off as the cleaner? Distant cousin?
F. William Darcy (@thebarracuda): That awkward moment when your date laughs so hard she falls into the lake and you don't quite know what to say. tinyurl.com/nhjywws
DM @lordfreddie -> @themaxxiemax: Well I guess Surprise!Son is a bit of a shock. Especially if you came out of the shower in nothing but a towel ... did you?
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: He never even told me about a gf at all! I thought she was the cleaner.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: I didn't even know she was there until I stepped out of the shower and she was in the kitchen.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: I could swear she wasn't there when I got home.
DM @lordfreddie -> @themaxxiemax: So she has keys? Must be serious.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: You are useless. That makes me feel so much better. I'm a secret! A secret Shame!
DM @lordfreddie -> @themaxxiemax: Dude you are not a secret shame. The whole family knows about you.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: Stop dude-ing me.
DM @themaxxiemax -> @lordfreddie: SHE doesn't know about me.
DM @lordfreddie -> @themaxxiemax: No one knows about HER either!
Caroline Bingley (@CarolineB.): That awkward moment when your formerly cool friends suddenly become unbearably twee. #lindorabble
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): I guess I'll just wallow in the secret shame of my existence.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): Maybe I should just emigrate to Greenland and hunt moose or whatever.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @themaxxiemax melodrama doesn't suit you!
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): @themaxxiemax Sweetie just come over and have breakfast with me and Miles!
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): @themaxxiemax You can tell me all about what happened this morning.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @crazycatlady Too late! mum is already in the kitchen making coffee for him.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Oooh coffee smells goooooood. Must get coffeeeeeeeee. #ilovecaffeine
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @crazycatlady You can call me later and I'll tell you all the dirt on Ash. Maybe.
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): @crazycatlady @lordfreddie What is up with the two of you? What on earth are you talking about???
Henry Tilney (@whatahenry): That awkward moment when you wonder when your formerly cool friends will start sharing pictures of their food on facebook. #lindorabble
Lizzy Bennet (@LizzyBee): That awkward moment when you ask yourself whether your friends are unable to survive without sarcasm. #lindorabble
F. William Darcy (@thebarracuda): That awkward moment when you ask yourself if your friends are just allergic to happiness. #lindorabble
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Gah! Mater! Woman wouldn't even let me have a cup of coffee before sending me out to buy more bread for poor wee Maxiekins.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Ah! Sunlight! Eyes! Hurt! #partylikeits1999
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): @lordfreddie If you continue tweeting while walking, you'll fall over eventually. Just saying.
Lizzy Bennet (@LizzyBee): Yeah great as if being soaked in algae water weren't enough. Thanks, #rain!
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): @ColStudmuffin Just shut up and let @lordfreddie get to dishing out the gossip.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): Really feeling the sympathy, folks. #ithinkiwasadopted
Kate Morland (@KateausHamburg): That awkward moment when you wonder whether you should point out that karma can be a female dog. #lindorabble
A little while later, curled up by Ash's side on the sofa, snugly covered by one of the blankets, Kitty suddenly noticed that her bra had ended up underneath the coffee table. It was as good a resting place for it as any, she thought, and let it be. Instead, she snuggled closer to Ash and sighed contentedly. Ash was caressing her hair, rather fondly she thought, and sighed when she did. He pressed a soft kiss to her head.
'Look,' he said, 'I don't know exactly what you meant about insecurities, but you should know that you're not the only one who has them.'
'You?' Kitty asked incredulously.
'Well, of course,' Ash said. 'Ever since I met you, I've basically just been waiting for something to to happen -'
'What do you have to be insecure about?' Kitty asked. 'You're - you're smart, and you know so much, and you work for the bloody Royals, and you're handsome, and kind, and -'
'And I'm old, Helen,' Ash said softly, 'at least compared to you, I have a completely unpredictable and potentially dangerous job, I'm divorced - I have a son -'
'Oh,' Kitty said. 'I guess I never looked at it that way.'
'That's why I was so hesitant to tell you about Max,' Ash said. 'I thought that maybe knowing I'm a father would scare you away.'
'No,' Kitty said, 'it's - I won't deny it's weird, and I'll need to get used to it, but it's not really scary.'
'I'm relieved,' Ash said and Kitty thought she could hear him smile.
'How old is Max anyway?' she asked.
'Sixteen,' Ash said.
Kitty tried a mental calculation.
'Oh,' she said, 'so you were -'
'Not quite nineteen,' Ash said. 'It was - not exactly planned that way.'
'Oh,' Kitty said again.
She knew they were traipsing around the core matter, and she desperately wanted to ask about Max' mother, but on the other hand, she did not want to hear about what might be the amazing ex-wife that Ash was still hung-up about.
'So - Max' mother -' she said tentatively.
'Melissa,' Ash said, and Kitty was pleased to hear that he sounded more neutral than tender. 'She's in America. Max lived with her for the first ten years, but we wanted him to go to an English school, because of, you know -'
Kitty moved her head to look up at Ash and saw that he was actually blushing.
'The Earldom and stuff, you know,' he muttered. 'Family traditions and all that.'
'It's not that we think it matters so very much,' Ash said quickly. 'It's just - well, he is the future Earl and - nothing we can do about it really - we didn't even think about it at first, but turns out the Elvis impersonator actually was licensed -'
Kitty giggled again.
'Do you know how hard it is to get divorced in America while you're sitting your A-levels?' Ash asked.
'Oh, you poor thing,' Kitty said. She was relieved to notice that it was Max who was at the forefront of Ash's reminiscences and not the mysterious Melissa. More detailled explanations, she thought, could probably wait.
'Yeah, and Melissa wanted to continue with her doctoral thesis, and I'd got into Oxford, and - anyway, so Melissa's parents pretty much took care of him for the first couple of years,' Ash said, 'but, well, they were getting on and - anyway, now he's at a small boarding school near my parents' and apparently, he got off for the weekend.'
'And then he ran into me,' Kitty finished for him, as things finally began to make sense. 'Poor boy, that must have been awkward for him - was he very confused?'
'I guess so,' Ash said. 'I mean, I barely had a chance to explain before he ran out and -'
'He ran away?' Kitty repeated. 'But - Ash - you have to search for him and -'
'It's good,' Ash said. 'He's at my parents', he'll be fine. I'll explain to him later and -'
Kitty stood up and pulled the blanket off him.
'Later?' she cried. 'You have to explain to him now - you can't leave your son hanging -'
'Yes, but I - you -' Ash mumbled.
'I would have managed,' Kitty said, 'but that poor kid - now, go on, get dressed, what are you waiting for?'
She reached under the coffee table for her bra and found her blouse with it. Ash hang his head dejectedly.
'I guess you're right,' he said. 'I swear, I'm a much better father usually. Only, apparently I didn't think -'
'You bloody well didn't think,' Kitty agreed. 'Oh, you stupid, silly man -'
She pressed a kiss to his head before giving him a shove to push him off the sofa and Ash trotted off towards the bathroom where his clothes were. He was out of it again in no time and Kitty noticed that although the shirt had mostly dried, his trousers looked still damp. He fumbled awkwardly with the buttons of his shirt.
'Uhm - Helen?'
'Would you - uhm - consider coming with me?'
'To see your son?' Kitty asked. 'Don't you think that would be - sort of - awkward?'
'Yes, but -' the rest of Ash's answer was lost in a mumble of which Kitty could only make out the words 'my mother' and 'quite deadly with a riding crop.'
Kitty cocked her head to one side and wondered whether Ash was joking or serious. Ash roughly pushed the tails of his shirt into his trousers and took a further step towards Kitty, who'd just finished zipping up her jeans. With a wonderful tenderness, he took her face in his hands and said softly, 'I know there are so many things to discuss and sort out, but do you think we can make it work? Because being with you, Helen, makes me insecure as hell about myself, but not about you - whenever I look at you I just hope that we really might have a good thing going if - if we allow it to happen, so - what do you think, do you think that could work, that we sort all this out together?'
Kitty could only nod in agreement and press a quick kiss to Ash's lips, but there would be time to talk about everything later. She quickly grabbed her bag and her keys and slipped into a pair of shoes and they were out of the door and down the stairs to the tube before she realised she had left her phone behind, but she did not want go back and get it, and make Ash lose momentum in his quest to set things to rights with his son.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): Guess who the #mostworthlessparent award goes to this year.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): Not going to name names for privacy reasons but someone has just gone off my Christmas present list.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Mum on the warpath, dad rummaging through freezer for frozen dough, sis writing kill lists & yrs truly feeling like death warmed over.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): So business as usual @ Casa Fitzwilliam.
Georgiana Darcy (@chopinaholic): London calling! #goingtotheproms
Georgiana Darcy (@chopinaholic): Got some awesome last-minute tickets! #goingtotheproms
DM @ColStudmuffin ?@crazycatlady: Just had email from Freddie about what happened.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Has our degenerate brother yet dared to show his face?
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): No gramps, I don't think a raspberry tart will make it all better.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): I'm not, like, five years old, thx.
Samuel Wilson (@samthedestroyer): @themaxxiemax Dude your grandpa's tartes are like, way awesome.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): @samthedestroyer I know.
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): @samthedestroyer He's decided he will make brownies now.
Samuel Wilson (@samthedestroyer): @themaxxiemax Dude save some for me.
Georgiana Darcy (@chopinaholic): @thebarracuda OMG I just saw.
Georgiana Darcy (@chopinaholic): @thebarracuda You went on a date???!?
Georgiana Darcy (@chopinaholic): @thebarracuda With who??
Georgiana Darcy (@chopinaholic): @thebarracuda Is it someone I know?
Maximilien Kaczmarek (@themaxxiemax): Okay so maybe brownies are good. NO HORLICKS THOUGH GRANNY. #blegh #nohorlicksibegofyou
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Who invented #horlicks and how much did they hate people??? #nohorlicksibegofyou
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): It's official: My mum thinks we're all five-year-olds. #nohorlicksibegofyou
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): @crazycatlady @lordfreddie Stay strong! Don't let the Horlicks get to you! #nohorlicksibegofyou
DM @chopinaholic ? @thebarracuda: It's not someone Aunt C set you up with right?
DM @chopinaholic ? @thebarracuda: Please tell me she didn't coerce you to go out with Ophelia Twinset-Cunningham again.
DM @chopinaholic ? @thebarracuda: Seriously she gives me the creeps.
DM @chopinaholic ? @thebarracuda: Anyway you can tell me tonight! And don't be stingy on the details!
DM @chopinaholic ? @thebarracuda: It's okay if I stay at the flat, right? I don't fancy driving back to Oxford so late.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Can't get away from the office. Waiting for v important phonecall from overseas or at least aunt c says it is.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: she's threatened to skin me alive if I don't answer it personally.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: meanwhile she left to get her hair cut to look even more like a helmet & told me to have fun.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: because working on a saturday is so much fun.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Anyway, how's the kid holding up?
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Tell him to hang in there.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: I'm sure Ash will come around.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Eventually.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Once it's gotten through his thick skull what he's done.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: He went upstairs.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: I guess dad debating how much pie crust to make just got too much for him.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): Geez mum there are only so many times one can clean an oven.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): Especially if the cleaning lady did just that yesterday.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): But I guess it's better she takes out her aggressions on that thing. #daughterofthefuries
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Also I guess he wants to phone his mum.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Poor Melissa won't know what hit her. Must be rottenly early in Boston.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: I guess he can always call your mum if his doesn't answer. She's probably been in the lab dissecting stuff since 6 am.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Because I guess sleep is overrated when there is science to be had.
DM @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: At least my mum doesn't try to punish innocent kitchen appliances. Also, Horlicks.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Yeah but either way we're both saddled with a father who right now is pitting about four pounds of cherries.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): Sometimes I wonder if all the epinephrine we've had to ram into my brother's system through the years has affected his brain.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): Considering he forgets about the bananas about twice a month it certainly adds up.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): And it seems to me to be the best explanation for his monumental stupidity.
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): @crazycatlady What's he done now?
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Will you believe his nerve ?!
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: He's brought * her * with him. Here!
DM: @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Who???
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: HER. Did you not listen? THE GIRL!
DM: @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: What, Helen? Why would he do that?
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: I haven't a clue. Because he's a dork?
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: I mean, he's my brother and I love him, but let's just agree that today wasn't one of his more brilliant days.
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Although to be fair I think the girl is perfectly nice. Just her luck to always be caught in Ash's stupid.
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: She seems to know mum too, somehow. Nobody tells me anything.
DM: @ColStudmuffin ? @crazycatlady: Is Ash properly grovelling at least?
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Well I wouldn't know, he's been up at Max' room for the last half hour.
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: While the rest of us are sat here in the kitchen making awkward conversation with the girl.
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Whose name isn't Helen, btw, as she told us before.
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: She's rather funny actually.
DM: @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Also I love her hair.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): I wonder if I should get a #pixie. Thoughts?
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): @crazycatlady That depends. Are we talking Cornish, or Devon?
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): @ColStudmuffin I'm not having this conversation with you. You know nothing.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @ColStudmuffin Yeah, you know nothing, Jon Snow.
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): Really, @lordfreddie? Really? You want to go there? #winteriscoming
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @ColStudmuffin Geek is the new sexy, bro.
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): I can outgeek you any day, @lordfreddie.
Annabelle Carlon (@crazycatlady): @ColStudmuffin @lordfreddie I am so not related to either of you.
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): I'm a #Gryffindor! What Hogwarts house do you belong to? tinyurl.com/qxwsvqr
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Puffs for the Cup! #hufflepuff #puffsrule tinyurl.com/qxwsvqr
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): #DumbledoresArmy - still recruiting! #dumbledoresmanthroughandthrough
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): Han shot first!
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): @david_tennant was the best #doctor ever.
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): #exterminate. #exterminate. #exterminate
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): #diftorhehsmusma
Frederick Fitzwilliam (@lordfreddie): Speak friend and enter. #mellon
Richard Fitzwilliam (@ColStudmuffin): A red sun rises in the East. Blood will be shed tonight, @lordfreddie.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: If I may interrupt your monologues, Sheldon.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Ash and the kid have actually made a reappearance.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: They claim to be all good now.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Very awkward scenes all around as the kid met Helen/Kitty.
DM @crazycatlady ? @ColStudmuffin: Also dad's cobbler is almost done so why are you not here yet??
When Kitty checked her watch as they exited the Fitzwilliam house, she was more than surprised to find that it was already close to midnight. Maybe, she thought, the laws of physics became suspended in the Fitzwilliam kitchen. That would certainly explain why more and more people could enter it with it remaining to feel just the right amount of crowded. Meeting Max had been awkward, to say the least, but she was happy to realise that the boy bore her no particular grudge, and the family likewise seemed to mostly blame Ash for what had happened. There had been lots of teasing, most of which went just over Kitty's head, and the Earl had served a cobbler and several tarts, and then Ash's other brother, the one she had met in the hospital, had made an appearance. Ash's sister, who, like all other Fitzwilliams, had a phone permanently glued to her hand, had summoned her husband ('call me Miles') and there had been more teasing, and talk about a recent elopement, and a horse show everyone was going to attend, and then Harriet had heated several quiches that seemed to come from nowhere, and bottles of wines had been opened and almost destroyed as Freddie tried to explain a particular polo technique to Max, and before she knew it, Kitty had begun to yawn and Ash had announced that he would take her home. As they walked to the underground, Kitty found it was rather chilly in spite of her coat. She wondered how Ash was faring, seeing as he was wearing nothing but the shirt, but he seemed too preoccupied to bother much about the temperatures.
'So, eh, do you - would you - I mean, shall we go back to my place?' he asked, running a hand through his hair.
'Can we stop at my place first?' Kitty said. 'I forgot my phone and I don't want Lizzy to worry about me.'
Ash raised an eyebrow in question.
'My flatmate,' Kitty explained. 'I guess she's still out with the Shark Guy, but she'll have sent me dozens of texts, if I know her at all.'
'Your friend is out with a bloke named Shark Guy?' Ash asked. 'Why on earth would someone call themselves -'
Kitty giggled and flung an arm around Ash's waist.
'He didn't call himself that,' she said. 'It's just - everyone calls him the Shark Guy.'
In the end, they stayed at Kitty's flat. It was late, after all, and Ash had to admit that he was a bit cold, and even if Kitty's room was small, there was enough room to sleep. They found that Lizzy, too, had decided to bring her date home, but they had already retired to Lizzy's room and the flat was dark. Ash was disappointed he could not meet someone called the Shark Guy in person, but found the idea comforting that he would probably run into him the next morning. The size of the flat, Kitty pointed out, did not exactly allow for people not to notice each other.
Kitty was woken much earlier than she had planned, by a commotion outside her room. In the light of her alarm clock, she could see that it was a quarter to four, and that Ash had inexplicably gone missing from the bed again. She quickly got out of the bed and into the hallway, and was just about to flick on the lights when they did so on their own accord and Kitty found herself face-to-face with Lizzy, wearing, like Kitty herself, nothing but an oversized t-shirt.
'It came from the bathroom,' Lizzy said and Kitty, who was closer, pushed open the bathroom door and pulled the cord to switch on the lights.
There stood Ash, armed with a hairdryer he was pointing straight at Darcy's heart, whilst Darcy was trying to throw a towel over Ash's head like a net. As the lights flickered on, both men gasped.
'You -' Ash said.
'You -' Darcy returned.
'You are the Shark Guy?'
'You are the vile pig person?'
'You know each other?' Lizzy asked.
'He's my cousin,' Darcy said.
'Very distant second cousin,' Ash replied with a fierce scowl at Darcy's Tottenham boxers.
'Barely related at all,' Darcy returned with a glare at Ash's Arsenal boxers.The End