This is the twenty-sixth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.
Ignoring Lauren’s comment, I waited for Ronnie to speak up. But surprisingly, it was Olly who spoke next. “Nothing against either of you, but I think even living together is a bad idea. In all honesty, Ronnie, you have got so used to living at home, the transition to being half of a couple is going to be a massive wake-up call. My suggestion would be that you rent your own place at first. You can still see Lauren, but it wil teach you all you need to know about running a home, fending for yourself for once, and little things like cooking a meal and ironing a shirt. If you just move in with Lauren, there’s a real danger you will just expect her to do everything for you, and that won’t work out, believe me”.
I looked over at Olly, wishing I had said what he had just said.
Lauren was nodding too. Maybe she hadn’t yet realised just how hopeless Ronnie was. I pictured him sitting playing a video game in his underpants, or watching one of his body-horror DVD films, all the while paying zero attention to Lauren, until he thought it was time for sex. Lauren caught my eye, and looked at her shoes. I think she had experienced the same thought, at the same time. It seemed as if Olly had saved the day.
Attempting to outline the positives, Olly carried on, appealing to Ronnie’s love of his substantial savings in the bank. “Look at it this way. A wedding will cost you a small fortune, maybe twenty grand. Then if that marriage doesn’t work out, that’s dead money. That’s a decent car, or a lot of Playstations. More to the point, without being flippant, it’s not fair on Lauren. She’s already had one marriage go tits-up, and I am sure she will agree she doesn’t need another like that. Remember the old fable. Slow and steady wins the race”.
Alhough Ronnie was nodding, I knew full well he had never heard of Aesop.
That seemed to be a suitable moment to send them packing, so I invented the need to go and feed Leah. But Lauren didn’t get the hint, and asked for another glass of wine. I mean, who asks for another glass of wine, even if they brought it themselves? Rude. I had to follow through with taking Leah up, so fed her anyway. All the while listening to Olly in his pontificating mode, continuing to explain to my brother why co-habitation was a bad idea.
Ronnie was out of his depth, and outclassed. By the time I had put Leah into her cot and came back down carrying the baby monitor, Olly was explaining to Lauren how my mum smothered my younger brother, and how my dad was so hen-pecked, he let her get away with anything. I had always known Olly didn’t like my mum. I never blamed him for that, as I didn’t like her that much either. But slagging my family off to a stranger was not on, as far as I was concerned.
By the time they left, Ronnie looked downcast, and Olly was smugly pleased with himself. I was pissed off at the way the tone of the conversation had changed, and stayed downstairs fuming quietly after Olly had gone up to bed. I couldn’t face an argument that late at night, especially after Olly had been drinking.
The phone ringing the next morning made me jump. I had fed Leah, then dropped off in the chair in her room. It was my mum, sounding chirpy. She wanted to congratulate me on changing Ronnie’s mind. “I don’t know what was said, Angela, he wouldn’t tell me. But he came home late, in a foul mood. I was sitting up watching a film, and he launched into me about how I had primed you to make him spilt up with Lauren. He made so much noise your dad came down to see what was going on. Now he says he will move out anyway, Lauren or no Lauren. I doubt that will happen, he will probably calm down after a morning at work and realise where he is well off”.
I reminded her that he was twenty-seven, and probably should be living on his own. I didn’t tell her that Olly had been the one to talk them both round, I had no inclination to be drawn into a blow by blow account of last night’s conversation.
It was ten minutes after I had hung up that I remembered she hadn’t asked about Leah.