It’s 3:30pm on Friday. I look outside across the garden, to our fields beyond. Our empire, as you call it, that we worked so hard to have. The sky is blue and still, the sun still so hot, high in the sky. Just then, the kids run across the garden, shrieking and laughing. There’s only one way to end the day, and I fish my phone out of my pocket and dial your work number.
“Hey, Hollywood,” you greet. I know from this that you’re alone in your office. Should it have just been a friendly “Hello”, your boss would be present; an overdramatic “My darrrrrrling, for what do I owe the extreeeeeme pleasure of this call?” would mean it was just your peers, as always competing over who can answer the phone to their other halves in the most soppy way.
“Yessss!!! Perfect. I’ll get texting. Bring a bottle and a salady thing?”
“Yep. Arrive as and when; I’ll be in. Camp over if they want. What time will you be back?”
“Fucking now. Well, should be able to bugger off in the next half hour. I’ll grab meat, anything else?”
“Err, crisps, rolls. Anything else you fancy.”
“Awesome. See you soon. Can’t wait. Love you!”
“Love you too, SM.”
I hang up and immediately text our local friends, kids’ friends and family. “BBQ at ours tonight. Bring a side dish and booze. Kids, dogs, grannies welcome. Turn up any time and feel free to camp over. Look forward to seeing you!”
Within minutes my phone starts buzzing and as luck would have it, most are free. An hour later and cars start arriving, kids pouring out and happy voices fill the air. Ladies hustle in with food, men with beer and wine. “How are yooou?”, “You look well!”, “What a brilliant idea!”, “Garden looks amazing, David’s work?”.
Everyone knows the drill. Alcohol in the buckets of water on the patio. Salads on the kitchen table. Kids in the treehouse, messing around on the lawn, darting past adults on the patio.
You arrive on cue, laden with shopping bags, and walk straight towards me at the counter, throwing together a pasta salad. Without putting anything down, you kiss me, a little too passionately perhaps, for such a public moment.
“Muuumm! Dad! Aaargh!”
We pull away, smiling, but don’t care. Every time I see you is like the first time, and I can’t get enough of you, ever.
We launch into the swing of things, marinading meat, stoking up the barbecue you bricked in yourself, full of pride. I get the paddling pools out and the children immediately jump in, splashing and squealing. The adults run the opposite way – experience suggests the chances of being splashed or thrown in are very high, More people arrive, the music goes on, and everyone forgets the stresses the week has brought, relaxing in the sun, atmosphere and good company. The wine flows; the food is devoured. Gradually, the sun starts to set. I excuse myself from the conversation I’m in and start to look for you. I know where you are when the cry of “Bastards!” is heard, followed by a huge splash.
“David!” I shout. “Children are present!” I head over to the paddling pools, where I find you lying in one, and Sam and Peter, your best mates, laughing next to it. I cant help but laugh myself. You probably deserved it, and three children have now launched themselves on you, knowing that you’ll stand up and whirl them around to shake them off.
“Sorry dear!”, you apologise. You look up at me. “Time for fire?”
“Yesssss!”, squeal two of the children, and all three promptly let go of you and run to the fire pit. It’s just a large bare patch of earth, but you’ve christened it a fire pit, and nothing will change that name in your head. Ten minutes later, it’s alive with logs and flames, and our remaining guests slowly gather round. Marshmallows and sticks come out; toasting begins. You feed me the first one and we cuddle up as you start toasting the next.
Our children start nodding off, so I get up and herd them inside. Pyjamas are thrown on, and they fall into bed exhausted but very happy. Ten minutes later, I’m back in your arms, watching the flames dancing. Only the campers are left now, and it has been decided that drinking games should be played.
Hours later, completely wasted, we stagger indoors and up to bed. You flop into bed on your back, and I cuddle up to your side, head on your shoulder, one arm over your chest and one leg over yours. You wrap your arms around me and kiss my hair.
“Could life be any more perfect?”, you ask.
“I really don’t think it could,” I reply. And with that, we drift off to sleep.