Chapter 1

"That music is too loud,” shouts Amanda to a clearly happy Dennis.

She crouches down under the counter trying to find the volume knob on the sound system amongst the mass of cables that thread along the lower shelf.

Dennis stares over at Amanda with unnerving but deliberate intensity coupled with a bit of natural charm.

“It’s on the other shelf, Amanda,” says Dennis reinforcing his know-all building attitude.

Amanda goes red then redder, becomes clumsy then clumsier and has an emotionally awkward then awkwarder feeling at the base of her stomach.

“Thanks, Dennis.  Next Friday I’m 30…” she says quietly gathering some confidence…

 “…it will be a good day for both of us.”

Dennis likes the reply.

“That makes it an extra Good Friday then,” she says smiling inwardly and outwardly.

The one bit of advice Amanda got from her dad that was still useful even though he was useless at everything else, was...

 

just agree with anyone,

no matter how awkward it feels.

that will get you through the day.

Amanda’s dad was no Mick Jagger but his words still stayed with her.

***

Mary wanted a girl and had plenty of time for Helen. Triplet boys were certainly enough to fill her everyday life. Mary told Helen at seven she was adopted.  Her biological mother, Brenda, had always been non-contactable since Helen was handed over at three months old. Since becoming pregnant Helen craved contact with her biological mother. The baby would then be linked to its grandmother by blood.

Mary’s kitchen skills were unquestionable. Today she’s on banana cake duty.

The kitchen has cupboards without doors, gib board still to be painted and empty electrical sockets.  Dennis’s intention is to finish these but building Helen’s house and some golf takes over his weekends.

Adding half a cup of chocolate chips to the cake mix before putting it in the oven is the final step. Helen loves advice from Mary’s kitchen philosophy:  boys are always hungry. Good for an upcoming mother to know. What sex the baby is, no one knows.

Helen sits on the middle stool at the kitchen bench engrossed in Mary’s culinary effort.

This is an area Helen is not shy of but another guideline she learnt from Mary is: don’t get involved in anyone else’s kitchen unless they ask.

Mary smiles at Helen with affection and love that is never in doubt.

“It’s Dennis’s 50th birthday next week.  That is a big event in anyone’s life,” says Mary.

Helen always looks forward to family occasions.  They are never shy of doing them on a large scale.

Stephen, the middle one of the triplets, comes in the back door throwing his bike helmet and back pack on the kitchen table.

Mary eyes Helen with just a bit of contempt but before she can speak Stephen gets in first.

“Mum, I really like Amanda who works at the building depot.”