Covered up with a rough, itchy blanket, he read one of his many letters by the silvery light of the moon. It was written in an elegant hand, and printed on fine paper with a business letterhead - "CLYDE THACKER - CEO, WILLOW APPLIANCES".
Hey there, Boss.
So, I understand that my little bruv wrote to tell you about his visit to my gaff in Windenberg... when he found out the truth about Lucy. It's not an easy tale for me to tell, but Mo says he wants you to know everything. Perhaps he thinks that me confessing it all to you will somehow make up for everything I did.
Still, I guess it's only fair for you to know the truth - for God's sake, I owe you my freedom, after all.
So, here I go. It's probably easiest if I start where Mo left off: that night over at my place...
A shocked silence had fallen around the table in Clyde's dining room. Lucy, her hands trembling, stared at her so-called "uncle" - rocked to her core by his confession. She shook her head wildly in utter denial.
"No!" she wailed. "No! You can't be! Mo and Theo are my daddies!"
Theo stifled a sob.
"You... you were adopted, sweet pea," he told Lucy in slow, anguished tones. "Mo found you on our doorstep one night, back when you were a tiny baby. We took you in, raised you as our own... but we never knew where you came from. Until now."
Mo still had his eyes fixed on his brother - his gaze full of hate and anger, his hands balled into fists on the table in front of him.
"I think," he said, in an eerily calm, controlled voice, "that you should start at the very beginning. Where exactly did Lucy come from?"
"It all started at Minerva's wedding," he replied. "Bride and groom aside, you and Theo weren't the only ones there who'd get together..."
As he watched his brother and his new paramour locking lips on the dance floor, a small smile crept onto Clyde's face. Years ago, as his mother Charlotte lay dying in the hospital, she had made him promise that he would always look after her little Moses - to always do his best to make him happy. Clyde had given her his word, and he intended to keep it.
It hadn't been easy. Their father, Robert, was a notorious drunkard and wastrel, who didn't really give a damn about either of his kids. He and Clyde had never seen eye to eye, and despite only being three years older than Mo, Clyde had become his brother's caregiver. The moment he turned 18, he made the decision to get the hell out of that house, and he took Mo with him... settling down in a little flat in the poorer part of Oasis Springs.
Clyde knew one thing for sure. He was never ending up like his old man, and as much as he loved Mo, he didn't want to have kids of his own - lest he mess their lives up, too. He was going to get a great job somewhere, and be rich and successful instead.
But, of course, things hadn't worked out like that to start with. Unable to find honest employment, Clyde had turned to crime to support himself and his sibling - with young Mo eventually joining the "profession" some time later. Originally nothing more than petty thieves, they had met Nimue during an break-in, who in turn had later lead them to Mitch, and, well... that story had recently reached its rather sad conclusion.
Yet now, as he saw his brother dancing away with a sensible, decent man in his arms, Clyde felt like he'd finally done something right... even if he hadn't done anything at all.
Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned and saw Nimue standing next to him - watching the same scene with great satisfaction.
"They do look great together," she remarked.
"Yeah," Clyde replied. "I just hope 'e's 'appy with 'im. That's all I want."
"I'm sure he will be."
Suddenly, Clyde felt himself stiffen up as Nimue slipped her arm around his.
"Shall we join them?" she asked, smiling.
"Are... are you sure?"
"Why not? It's just a dance. A dance between old friends."
"But... but Mitch - "
"He wouldn't have minded. Really."
Clyde smiled, and nodded, allowing Nimue to lead him onto the dance floor.
It should have stopped there. He knew that. But, once the dance was over and the guests had started to dispel, Clyde had hung back when he saw Mo and Theo hurrying off together with little Polly, eager to get back to the Creswell house and be with one another. He himself was in no rush to return to the dingy, pokey flat that he called home, and so, he'd offered Nimue his help in cleaning up, which she'd greatly appreciated.
Over the next six months, Clyde went to call on Nimue regularly: sometimes at the café, and sometimes at her home. One evening, he'd hung around in the living room as Nimue put her son to bed. When she'd finally joined him, she seemed... upset. Unhappy. Concerned, he'd immediately asked her what was wrong. She'd opened up about how hard she was finding everything without Mitch: how tiring it was caring for their baby whilst running the café, and how lonely it was to lay on her own in their marriage bed all night.
When he'd put his arm around her, it had been meant to comfort her. Nothing more. But he had always loved Nimue, and still did. He couldn't deny it. And she, a woman under great stress and feeling very isolated, had wanted more of that warm, reassuring feeling he brought to her.
So she'd taken him upstairs.
Later, when the emotional haze had lifted and the reality hit home, Nimue had become racked with guilt. Shaking Clyde to wake him as he slept beside her, she demanded that he get dressed and leave. Neither one had taken advantage of the other - it had just happened, and that was that. This incident was never to be repeated, and Clyde had to swear he would never breathe a word about it to Mitch.
(Clyde had agreed. Later, when he wrote to Mitch to tell him the story of Lucy, he would simply state that he'd "done a bad thing"... giving no specifics whatsoever.)
Clyde, seeing Nimue's pain, had reached out to her, longing to apologise - but Nimue had simply pushed him away, pointing to the door.
It was pointless to argue. At once, Clyde had clambered back into his suit, and headed out into the night - hoping he had enough change in his pocket to pay for a taxi to Oasis Springs. As he wandered across the Miskins' lawn, he stopped suddenly as he spotted a bright, dazzling light above him in the sky...
In the weeks that followed, Clyde insisted to himself that nothing had happened. It had all been some bizarre hallucination, triggered by the guilt he'd felt at betraying one of his closest friends. Burying himself in his work, he travelled far and wide securing sale after sale - helping to solidify his place as one of the company's best employees, worthy of promotion.
The stomach cramps and sickness he'd begun to experience in the mornings was simply a side effect of his new on-the-go lifestyle: a consequence of chugging down espresso coffees and munching on fast food... which also explained the weight that was rapidly piling on to his skinny, ex-cat burglar frame.
It wasn't until many months later, when he first felt the child move inside him, that the truth became impossible to deny.
In a moment of madness, he wondered if he'd somehow conceived Nimue's child... a punishment for daring to sleep with the wife of a married man. However, reason soon won out: that was a biological impossibility, and besides, they'd used protection.
His current condition, therefore, must be due to that strange light he'd seen, and his mysterious elevation into the sky. It was all rather unclear, but every so often, he'd have a momentary recollection of lying on a cold table in a lab-like room... bizarrely-coloured faces gazing down at him, with long, terrifying-looking tools in their hands...
All the same, the timing was noteworthy. Perhaps this was intended as a punishment, after all.
Telling his managers he was undergoing treatment for a stomach complaint, Clyde elected to work from home: conducting business meetings via webcam, and making sure his stomach was always out of sight. Fearing being dragged away by men in shades and black suits, or being locked up in another lab somewhere, Clyde was determined to keep this unnatural pregnancy of his a secret... but with a management vacancy coming up on the horizon, it was more important to him than ever to focus on his new-found career.
Every so often, he phoned Mo for a chit-chat - and when his brother, recently married, expressed his desire to have a child, the seed of an idea had been planted in Clyde's head. He didn't want to be a father... but maybe some good could come out of this situation.
Nine months after his mysterious abduction, when he awoke one morning with wet bedsheets and severe stomach pains - the life within him ready and eager to emerge - Clyde had known exactly who he had to see.
"Jesus," Mo said, hearing his brother's tale. "You don't mean... Billy Carver?"
Technically speaking, Billy Carver was a doctor. At least, that's what the degree certificate hanging in his hallway said, but whether or not he'd acquired it by legitimate means was a matter of some dispute. In any case, he certainly wasn't licensed to practise medicine - but he still did so, basing himself in his garage.
His clientele were those in the criminal fraternity, who usually needed patching up quickly and swiftly with no questions asked. Although his skills were debatable, and his "surgery" conditions certainly weren't the most hygienic, Billy Carver was, ultimately, the one physician that crooks could really on.. because, even when the patient's life was at risk, he kept his head down and his mouth shut.
Clyde had used his services once before, when he'd cut himself on a window during a botched robbery attempt. Now, he knew that Billy had to be the man who'd bring whatever it was he was carrying into the world.
As Clyde had stepped into his surgery/garage and explained the situation, Billy had immediately put his hands onto his stomach - feeling the kicks for himself. Clyde had watched him closely, doing his best to ignore the fact that the man's arms and clothing were utterly coated in blood.
"Yep, there's a sprog in there, all right," he'd concluded, gruffly. "And from the look of you, Clyde, mate, you're just about ready to pop."
"I am," Clyde had told him. "I've been in labour since 5am. I need you to deliver the baby. Can you 'andle it?"
"Course - piece of the proverbial, son," Billy replied, pointing to a dirty table in the corner of the room. "Just get your kit off, climb on there and lie back."
"Christ," giggled Clyde, "if I 'ad a Simoleon for every time I've heard that..."
As Clyde began to unbutton his jeans, he screamed and hunched up as pain streaked across his abdomen, leaving him panting for breath.
"You need to 'urry, Billy," he gasped. "This kid ain't gonna wait much longer."
"Just get on the table," Billy barked - caring little for patient compassion. "I'll soon 'ave the little bleeder out of you."
Minutes later, as Clyde lay naked beneath a dirt-covered blanket, he watched nervously as Billy methodically rooted though his toolkit.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" he asked.
"Please, mate," Billy insisted, brandishing a carving knife. "I am a professional."
As he turned back towards Clyde, his patient screamed as he felt a needle being thrust into his thigh - injecting him with some drug Billy had gotten from God-knows-where. It would help a lot with the pain, but not dull it completely. As he felt Billy slicing into his stomach to retrieve his baby, Clyde's wails of agony only grew louder - leading the disreputable physician to snap "Quit your bitchin', Thacker - it ain't 'elping you any now."
Clyde told himself that he was feeling all this pain for a reason. It was karma getting him back for years of bad behaviour. For all the robberies he'd ever performed. For sleeping with Nimue. This horrific process was nature's way of teaching him a lesson - and he was going to learn it. If he survived, he'd change his ways. No more crime. No more free and easy romances with various women. Making the mistake of looking down at his belly to try and view the proceedings, Clyde gasp in horror when he saw the puddles of blood rapidly spreading across the blanket... and immediately passed out.
When he came to, it was all over. Still laid on the table, his stomach had been stitched up and bandaged, and he spotted Billy in the corner of the room, wiping off his tools with an old tattered rag.
"I don't know who you've been screwin', Thacker," he muttered, "but that's one butt-ugly kid you've got there. Little gel. Skin as blue as the goddamn sky. And you owe me 500 notes."
"Is... is she OK?"
"Seems fine. Cried when she came out - all that stuff. Now take her away, and keep your fat trap shut about all this. I've not 'aving the feds sniffing round. Come on. Get yourself dressed and get out of here."
"If I 'ad a Simoleon for every time I've heard that, too - "
"I said "shut it"."
After slowly climbing down from the table, putting his clothes back on, and paying Billy his fee, Clyde wandered over to the small plastic crate by the wall in which his newborn child had been laid.
"Hey there, little 'un," he told her, softly. "Listen up. The thing is... I'm not exactly ready to be a daddy. I may never be. I've never really been that kind of bloke. You weren't exactly planned or expected. But that ain't your fault - and you ain't gonna suffer for it. I swear."
Reaching down, he scooped the infant up into his arms.
"I know someone who's bound to love you a whole bunch," he added. "You'll be his little gel, instead, and he'll treasure you more than anything else in this world."
He hadn't hesitated for a moment. Not even when he'd put the little one into the box on Mo's porch, leaning down to kiss her cheek one last time, placing the note he'd hastily typed on his home computer into her chubby little hand. Mo was a very loving and understanding person: he was bound to take this baby in, alien or not. Clyde was about to grant him his greatest wish, and make him happy - just as he'd promised his mother how would all those years ago. Plus, she'd have a lovely stepdad, and a sweet big sister. A proper famly as opposed to an unprepared single parent.
This was all for the best. When he saw this child again, it would be as her uncle, not her father - a role he was far more prepared to play. All the same, it hadn't stopped his tears when he'd run back to the car... which he'd hidden three streets away to avoid his brother seeing him. He sobbed as he turned on the ignition and sped away to Windenberg - his new homestead. The company had advertised for a new manager in their office there, and Clyde had immediately applied for the position - which he'd received. After everything that had happened - with Nimue, and now with this child - he was keen to get a new start... to put everything else behind him. He'd live in some hotel room for now, until he found a proper place.
He had no inkling that, a decade later, he'd own the mansion he'd so admired in the days of the Magpie League...
"That's it," Clyde said, exhaling deeply. "That's the whole story."
Lucy sank back in her chair - her face pale, her eyes wide in shock. As for Mo, he could feel his own hands shaking as rage flooded his veins. Soon, he could control it no longer, and turned on his brother angrily.
"I can't believe this!" he roared. "Ten years I've loved and look after that gel, and now, you're telling me she's not my daughter... but my niece?!"
"I just wanted what was best!" Clyde protested in response. "For you and for 'er! You wanted a baby so much, Mo... and well, I didn't. But that's not to say I didn't love 'er! I did, and I still do! And I love you too, bruv! That's why I gave 'er to you!"
"But why didn't you just tell me the truth?!"
"I was afraid! I thought you wouldn't believe me! After all, it's 'ardly an everyday thing, is it? Getting abducted and impregnated by aliens! I didn't think anyone would understand."
"Of course we would!" Theo piped up. "We're your family. And for goodness' sake - where do you think Polly came from?"
Clyde's jaw dropped.
"You... you too?" he gasped.
"Minerva and Gabriel were my confidantes. That's how we became friends."
"Jesus," Clyde whispered. "I thought I was the only one..."
Mo shot up out of his seat.
"I can't believe you did this," he hissed. "You let me believe that girl was mine. That she was sent to me from 'eaven. Let me love 'er and bond with 'er, to raise 'er as my own, for ten whole years. And now, it turns out she was yours - the whole time!"
"Look, bruv," Clyde said, "perhaps I went about things the wrong way, and I'm sorry. And I know 'ow much you'll 'ave invested in Lucy over the years - emotionally and financially. I'll buy you and 'er anything you want to make it up - just say the word."
"Christ! It's not about the money, Clyde!"
"All the same, if it 'elps - "
Mo had heard enough, With one mighty punch, he knocked Clyde straight off his chair and onto the ground - where he lay, unconscious, his left eye swollen and bruised.
As Polly threw herself into Theo's arms, Lucy, terrified, screamed and fled the room. Outraged, Ms. Melville leaped to her feet.
"'Ow dare you act like that in front of these gels!" she yelled to Mo. "I know you're angry, but calm yourself down or get the 'ell out of 'ere!"
Tutting, she hurried out after Lucy. Groaning, Mo turned on his heel and headed for the back door.
"Where are you going?" Theo asked him.
"Out," came the blunt reply.
"When will you be back?"
As Mo stormed out, Theo held his elder daughter close as she began to cry.
Sitting beside Ms. Melville on the sofa in the lounge, Lucy allowed the housekeeper to pat her hand gently, grateful to be comforted. A million frantic thoughts were rushing around in her mind, and she was struggling to cope with them.
Theo, after dragging Clyde onto a couch in the other room to recover, was now upstairs putting an upset Polly to bed. As for her father...
Her father her father her father -
That simple phrase was so confusing now. All of her life, she had considered Mo her dad, but now, it transpired that so-called "uncle" was far closer to her than she'd ever expected. He'd carried her. He'd given her life. And, most distressing of all, she'd just witnessed the former striking the latter severely. Until now, she had never realised how strong and violent Mo had the potential to be with his great size. It frightened her. So she'd started to sob.
Ms. Melville, knowing how upset she would be, had gone to find her right away.
"Families are confusing things, dearie," she told the girl. "Sometimes, the people you love most are the ones who end up 'urting you. Still, I don't think your un - fath - that Mr. Thacker is a bad man. I think 'e just wanted what was best for everyone... 'im, you and 'is brother. And Moses was wrong to 'it 'im like that, but I understand why 'e did it. 'E's angry. 'E's upset. 'E'll be feeling just as confused as you."
"I don't know what to do," Lucy replied. "I mean.. which one is my daddy now?"
"That's a question only your 'eart can answer," Ms. Melville said. "But I'm certain that both of those men love you very much, and would be 'appy to have you in their lives. You're never going to be on your own, sweetie - no matter what you decide. Take your time. Sleep on it."
Lucy nodded. Rising from the sofa, she thanked Ms. Melville, and went up to bed.
Sitting alone in the garden, Mo's shoulders were shaking... not just from the cold night air, but from the tears he was quietly weeping to himself.
His entire world had been shattered. Yes, he adored Polly, but Lucy had always felt like his special girl. With her arrival, Mo finally felt like he had a real, complete family. And he would have trusted his brother with his life.
Now, it turned out everything had been a lie. Lucy wasn't his at all. She was Clyde's. And now they both knew the truth. What if she turned around and said she wanted to stay with her "real daddy"? Mo would have no right to stop her. And that would break his heart. Utterly destroy him.
But then again... Clyde had given Lucy to him. He'd wanted him to be her father. He could have easily kept her: used her as a means to gloat and lord it over him, along with his successful career. But he hadn't. He'd wanted Mo to be happy. For the baby to be happy. He'd arranged it for them to be with one another as father and daughter - the note making it clear he'd been especially chosen for the task. Clyde had given Mo his child - possibly the only child he'd ever have - without a moment's thought. And he'd only told the girl the truth because Mo himself had demanded it.
Besides, Clyde hadn't set out to become pregnant. Theo had told Mo that the aliens just seemed to choose men at random - it wasn't something you could plan or predict. There didn't seem to be any correlation or link. If you were abducted, you were abducted - it was as simple as that. All the same, Mo could feel a jealous flame raging in his heart.
Clyde had never wanted children... so why couldn't the aliens have chosen him, instead? He would have bore the baby gladly and welcomed it into his family, with Theo by his side to support him. Both his husband and his brother knew how it felt to carry a child - to feel and bond with the little life growing inside you. Even if it was purely due to his curiosity on the subject, he felt like he was missing out.
It was getting late. He'd best be heading back inside. Perhaps some sleep would help calm him down and clear his head. And he'd best check on Clyde, too - he was going to have one hell of a shiner when he came round.
As he got up, Mo suddenly became aware of a small light flickering above him in the sky. As he watched it, intrigued, it seemed to get closer and closer, brighter and brighter... until suddenly, he was engulfed in a blinding beam.
Mo could feel himself being lifted off the ground. Looking up into the light, he blinked back his tears, and smiled, overjoyed.
They had heard him.
The following morning, Theo sat wide awake in bed. Anxious to the extreme, he hadn't slept a wink all night. Since he'd stormed out in anger the previous evening, after he'd hit Clyde, Mo still hadn't come back. There had been no texts, no phone calls. Where the hell was he?
As he watched the door intensely, praying to a god he didn't believe in for some sort of news, he jumped in shock as it flew open... and a grinning Mo rushed into the room, rushing around excitedly like a schoolboy on a sugar high.
"Mo!" Theo cried. "Are you all - "
He was stopped by Mo pulling him up into an embrace, and silencing his lips with a passionate kiss. As Theo melted into his husband's arms, relieved to see he was safe, he pulled away and stared at him, the pair sitting down together on the bed.
"Honey, I was so worried! Where were you?"
"It 'appened, Theo!" Mo replied. "It 'appened last night!"
"What do you mean? What happened?"
"The aliens! They came for me! They took me up, and... and..."
Theo, understanding at once, clutched Mo's hands tightly.
"Do... do you think you might be...?" he half-asked.
"I couldn't wait to find out," he confessed. "So, I went to one of them all-night chemists. I've taken three tests already."
Mo chuckled... and then nodded.
"Positive. Every single one."
"Really?" Theo gasped.
"Yep. Theo... I'm going to 'ave a baby!"
Theo felt tears welling up in his eyes.
"Oh, Mo... Mo, my love, that's wonderful!"
His breath was snatched from his lungs as Mo gave him another deep, passion-filled kiss. Pulling away, the large, lovable man held up his palm towards his husband.
"Polly was yours," he said. "Lucy was mine. Well, all right, Clyde's, but you know what I mean. I want this baby to belong to both of us. OK?"
Smiling, Theo lifted up his own palm, and interlocked his fingers with Mo's.
"To both of us," he breathed, as Mo kissed him once more and pushed him backwards onto the bed.
Some time later, as the pair lay together in an exhausted embrace following their blissful celebration, Theo turned to face his lover once more.
"What are we going to do about Lucy?" he asked.
"Don't worry," Mo replied. "I've thought it through. And I think Clyde will agree with my idea."
Upstairs, Lucy packed her belongings into her rucksack reluctantly. Theo had come into the room a few minutes earlier to explain that they were ending their trip early, and that everybody had to get ready to leave.
Polly had finished her packing ages ago but Lucy, upset and knowing she was the cause of the early departure, had taken her time. As she pulled the zipper tight and placed the rucksack on her back, she heard a loud cry coming from the foyer below.
"Lucy, 'oney! Come downstairs, please! We need to talk to you!"
Sighing, Lucy headed down the stairs obediently. There, stood in the foyer, were both Mo and Clyde, waiting for her.
"Lucy, love," Mo began, "the grown-ups all 'ad a little chat this morning. We want you to know that me, Theo and Clyde all love you very much. All any of us wants is for you to be 'appy."
"So, we're going to let you decide," Clyde continued. "You can go back with Mo, Theo and Polly, or stay 'ere with me and Ms. Melville. As for which one of us you call your father... that's your choice too. Either of us is glad to be "Dad" or "Uncle." So... what do you want to do?"
After a few moments of thought, Lucy smiled, and rushed up to Mo, who knelt to greet her.
"You're still my daddy," she said proudly. "My Daddy Mo. And I want to live with you in our house. With Daddy Theo, and my big sister."
Smiling, Mo hugged Lucy as tightly as he could.
As he watched, Clyde nodded, content. This is how things should be. However, as Lucy stepped away from her father, she rushed up to him and clutched his hand, pulling him down to her level, and threw her arms around him too.
"And you're still my Uncle Clyde," she told him. "The best uncle in the whole wide world. I love you very much."
Clyde choked back a sob.
"I love you too, Lucy," he replied, returning her embrace.
"Thank you," Lucy added. "For giving me life. And for giving me my daddies. I'll love you forever for that."
"You are welcome, love. More than welcome."
As she stepped away, Clyde rose to his feet as Lucy went to stand beside her father.
"Well, we'd best be off," Mo said. "I don't want to be late for my appointment."
"Appointment? What for?" Clyde asked.
"Doctor? You're not ill, are you, bruv?"
Mo grinned, and patted his belly.
"Well... let's just say I 'ave a stomach complaint. Guess it runs in the family."
Clyde burst out laughing.
"Bloody 'ell," Clyde said softly. "Looks like I am going to be Uncle Clyde, after all..."
Embracing his brother tightly, he walked with him to the door, whilst Ms. Melville escorted Theo and the two girls.
"Don't you go waiting another bunch of years to see me," he said firmly. "You get your fat arse over 'ere with the 'usband and kids as soon as that baby's born - right?"
"Sure. But you should get your skinny, designer-suited arse over to Willow Creek sometime, too."
"I dunno," Clyde replied. "Lots of bad memories."
"Then you need to make some new ones. Besides, the Miskins would love to see you, I'm sure."
After sharing one last embrace with his brother, and shaking Ms. Melville's hand, Mo led his family to the car, and they drove off - his two daughters waving frantically out of the back window to the pair on the mansion porch, who waved back.
Once they had gone, Clyde sighed, and then headed into the living room. Ms. Melville hung back for a few moments, distracting herself by straightening out a few paintings on the wall, but then decided her employer might appreciate a bit of company.
As she entered, he was sitting by the fire, sipping a pint of beer he had presumably poured from the bar in the corner, and looking lost in thought.
"Penny for 'em?" she said, taking a seat beside him.
"Oh, it's nothing," Clyde replied. "For a second back there... just a second... I thought Lucy might choose me. But in a way - I'm glad she didn't. Mo's her dad. I think 'e always 'as been, in a way."
He chuckled lowly.
"Still... it's not been the easiest weekend."
"Families aren't always easy," Ms. Melville told him. "I mean, just look at me. Married at 19. Arthur Murray, 'is name was. My God, what a bastard 'e turned out to be. Knocking me about, drinking every damn night - "
Clyde resisted the urge to put down the pint.
" - and 'e 'ad a bunch of other women on the go. Then 'e goes and karks it at the age of 39, leaving me with sweet sod all to show for twenty years of marriage. So, I go back to my maiden name, and 'ead down the jobshop."
Clyde turned to her.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asked.
"Well, your dirty laundry 'as pretty much been aired," Ms. Melville answered, "so it only seemed fair to share mine."
A pause followed.
"Thanks for looking after Lucy last night," Clyde said. "Theo said she'd been really upset. I think you 'elped 'er a lot. Well, you've been great with both the gels, really. Do you 'ave kids?"
"Nah," came the reply. "Couldn't 'ave em. Something wrong with my insides. That were another thing that arse'ole beat me for."
"No need to be. 'Ardly your fault, is it?"
"You've been good to me, Mr. Thacker," she said. "You know that, don't you? One of the few fellas in my life that 'as been bloody good to me. And one of my better employers. I mean, you've never tried to lure me into the pantry for a bit of 'ow's-your-father, now, 'ave you?"
Draining the dregs of his beer, Clyde turned to her with a cheeky smirk.
"The night is young."
Ms. Melville laughed.
"Well, with you, I'd probably enjoy it. At least, I always thought I would."
She stopped, suddenly aware of what she'd said, as Clyde's head whipped around to face her with a stunned expression. She'd gone too far. Crossed the line.
"I... I'm sorry..."
"It's... it's all right," Clyde replied. "Really - it's all right."
"Well," Ms. Melville said, getting up. "I'd best be getting on with that mopping..."
Turned around at the cry, Ms. Melville saw Clyde rising hastily, approaching her.
"'Ow long 'ave you been working for me?" he asked her. "Two years?"
"Well, given that, and everything that's 'appened... I think we can drop the formalities. From now on, call me "Clyde" - all right?"
"If you insist."
"I do. And what should I call you?"
Ms. Melville giggled.
"I daren't say," she replied. "You'll think I'm lying, or else make some stupid joke."
"Joke? What about?"
"Oh, you know... shootouts, robbing banks, that kind of thing."
Confused, Clyde looked at her. As his eyes fell on her monogram locket, the golden "B" brightly standing out, he suddenly understood.
"It isn't?" he asked.
Ms. Melville nodded, stifling a laugh.
"You're 'aving me on," Clyde added.
"I'm not! I promise!"
It was Clyde's turn to laugh.
"Bonnie Melville?!" he shrieked.
The lady nodded, as Clyde threw his arms around her.
Bonnie and I got married last month. She says her second husband is an severe improvement on the first. I asked her who her second husband was. We still joke around like that. It's one of the many reasons I fell in love with her.
We get teased a bit, naturally, but it's all in good fun. Cheeky buggers in the office put up a fake "WANTED" poster when I announced the engagement. No kids, of course, but we're happy as we are. Just the two of us. Besides, Mo, Theo and all three of my nieces come to visit a lot. That's right - three. Mo had a little girl as well. He called her "Daisy".
When she's all disguised, she has blonde hair and blue eyes, and she's the spitting image of him. He's so proud. Apparently, his pregnancy went really well, and the hospital told him he was the first pollinated man to actually smile throughout his labour. He was just so happy to meet his baby after wanting one for so long. Plus, Theo was his rock. He still is. They're one amazing little family.
Mo really is the happiest man in the world - although I've started to think I'm a close second. I turned 45 last week, and yet I still feel that some of my best years are ahead of me. As for retirement - no fear! I'll probably meet my maker on the trade floor, unless Bonnie drags me away.
Mo and I don't really discuss the whole Lucy situation much: it's as good as settled to us now, and we get on as well as we always did. I'm just Uncle Clyde - and I'm happy to be Uncle Clyde.
Anyway, I'd best go. The missus is calling. I've probably washed the dishes wrong, or something. I still say my way is better.
You're always welcome in Windenburg. See you when you're a free man!
Your friend, always,