Lillian, I love you I love you I love you...
Shout it to the skies. They tell you that when you first fall and fall hard. Richie spent the days after Girona drifting on a cloud, itching to drop Lillian's name into conversations. Family members, friends, strangers, all of them should be told.
On the Sunday night after dropping Lillian off, he told the taxi driver to take him straight to the building site. His foreman, Cammie's father, had said they'd be working over the weekend to catch up.
Thankfully, the rain had held off. Richie heaved a sigh of relief when he got there. Rab, hard hat and high-vis jacket smeared with grey, waved as soon as he spotted him and made his way over.
"Aye, well. Everything's fine. Wee issue with the foundations over there," he pointed at the far side where earlier surveys identified former mining activity. "But it's sorted."
Richie felt his stomach plunge at that, imagining months of delays, long days and payments behind schedule. Rab never raised anything unless it was important. But he also preferred fixing issues before passing them on.
"Aye? Great." Stomach normal once again, Richie took the hard hat and jacket Rab gave him and they headed towards the work already completed. Cammie was there, he noted, so he'd better grab him on the way past to say thanks for taking Ash to the auditions.
"Nice weekend?" Rab asked. "Girona, was it?"
Richie found himself doing something he'd never done before. Lovely wee place for a visit, Girona. Terrific weather there, warm and sunny and...Yes, he'd gone to Girona with a woman, his new girlfriend.
Rab stopped, just short of the first house, a skeleton awaiting the flesh and bones of walls and a roof.
"Aye? 'Bout time, big man." He clapped Richie on the shoulder, a paternal gesture that surprised them both. Hastily withdrawing his hand, Rab steered the conversation back to safer territory—who was in on Monday and what they expected to achieve.
Richie didn't get home till later that evening. Ashley called, her mind buzzing from the auditions. They'd told her they'd be in touch, oh my god, oh my god. No, Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne hadn't actually been there, Dad how stupid are you, but they would be there next time, and next time could be TV.
He said all the right words and worried afterwards that he should have managed her expectations. Richie didn't know how these things worked, but he suspected masses of people went on the reserve list. He imagined researchers plonking people on crude lists—pretty girl, the guy whose mother died when he was a baby etc., ugly dude with an amazing voice. Ash, even with her dad's bias, didn't necessarily meet any of those criteria.
Angel baba, Daddy thinks you're the best singer in the whole wide world, it's just...
Then, there was there was the whole introducing her to Lillian thing. He and Aileen left each other when Ash was three years old (he liked to think that their split had a minimal effect because it happened when she was so young). Until now, he'd never been in the position when he wanted to say, "Ash, this is my girlfriend. This is my daughter."
Because it never surfaced as an issue, he hadn't given it much thought over the years. Gelignite, though. Ash, precocious, prickly only child teen. Meet the new woman in my life, who will take up a decent bit of my attention.
Yikes. Say that again.
Richie didn't do fast-forwarding. If there was anything the years since his marriage and divorce had taught him, it was that the gap between your imagination and reality was far too wide. Still, nothing in his mind made the Ash/Lillian meet-up look good.
And now he was torn. Lillian filled his thoughts. He'd wandered around the building site, trailing after Rab and muttering aye and no, as his foreman told him what he'd done or approved. In the Portakabin, he'd signed his name to papers and given them only a cursory glance.
Cammie came in and told him all about picking Ash up and dropping her off. Was Richie meant to applaud? "You got that close to the SECC before you had to kick her out? Ta, mate. That gets you an extra week's work." He nodded, distractedly and checked his phone. Why hadn't Lillian texted him?
Wasn't that what women did? Politeness, yeah? Some bloke takes you away for a weekend, pays for it an' all, and you send a wee note? Doesnae need to be long—super time, thank-you?
I can't wait to see you again. Why don't we meet up on Tuesday night?
Nothing. His fingers flexed, the knuckles cracking as he stretched them out. One, two, three, four...
Rab opened the door, removing his hat. He did the thing he always did, rifling his fingers through what was left of his hair. It made his hair stand up on end, emphasising the patches on his crown. Cammie followed him. Like father, like son he also took off his headwear and ruffled his hair. His fluffed up instead, a bouffant halo of hair around his face.
"Still here, aye?" No-one could ever accuse Rab of lacking observation skills.
"I'm heading off," Richie said, pocketing his phone and standing up.
"She'll phone or text ye." Cammie. Richie shot him a look, then Rab. A man's private life should be sacred, no?
Then, a moment of weakness. "Will she?"
Father and son exchanged glances. Probably, they'd discussed this outside before coming in. Worked out their boss needed something. Words that helped, comforted or reassured.
Cammie grinned at him. "Oh, aye. She's doing that treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen thing. Hunner percent." He tapped the side of his nose and grinned. Disconcerting, really. "Leave it till Tuesday or Wednesday, then text. Casual, like. Say the weekend was great fun, would you like to meet up again? Works. Guaranteed."
Rab nudged his boy. "He should know, too. He's dated more folks than most people have had roast dinners."
Your perfect father. A man who'd adapted to his boy being gay, Rab had done so stoically. Up until last year, Richie would have said Rab was the last man to accept a gay son, but there you go. He did. Even took pride in his boy being well acquainted with every gay club and pub in Glasgow, Edinburgh and most of the north of England.
And knowing how dating worked for everyone else, naturally.
"Have ye telt Ash?" The question followed him out of the Portakabin, the sound of it reverberating along empty paths and a deserted car park.
Fuck, no. But he should. Ash teased him from time to time. "Got a girlfriend yet, Dad? No? Probably because you're too ugly." There'd been one introduction over the years; in retrospect it wasn't a good one, and he'd done it too soon. Ash, meet Lauren. All of twenty-two and a mere nine years older than her prospective step-daughter.
What? He was naïve, head over heels in lust, rather than love, and the meeting accidental—a bumping of two worlds Richie had been trying to keep separate up until that point. Ash looked at Lauren and said, "Is that fake hair? I can see the joins."
Afterwards, Lauren suggested he leave the past behind. When youth was still in you, you asked that kind of thing. Abandon all daughters all ye who enter here. It seemed reasonable.
Lillian, I love you I love you I love you. And still the words filled the space ahead of him, dancing in the setting sun. He called for a cab and hoped for a chatty taxi driver. There was nothing like a Glasgow cabbie, sociable, friendly and willing to talk about all sorts.
Your wise, middle-aged man—all of life's problems, issues and complaints behind him, theoretically—would listen, throw in the odd comment and offer sage advice. Richie could spill all, safe in the knowledge it would be forgotten by the time he picked up his next fare.
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The Artist's History (18+) #WATTYS2018 LONGLISTRomance
Love. It's never as easy as the books and films make out, right? Lillian and Richie are about to embark on their first weekend together. She's always found relationships difficult, and he has a troubled past. Sex, getting to know each other and shar...