Chapter Seven [IV]

“When the breakfast has been downed

And there is a cheerful mound

Of dirty dishes at the sink

We all wash up with a laugh and a wink.”

Blaise chucked delightedly. “What a funny song! Did you make that up?”

Aoife blushed. “I made it up on the spot,” she confessed.

“It’s appalling doggerel,” Dan remarked dubiously, having picked this phrase up from his English teacher at school, probably in reference to his own poetic efforts.

“I know,” Aoife said in an aside to him, “but anything to keep the family happy and focussed.”

A half-smile played upon Dan’s lips, and he consented to learning the verse.

“We must add more verses,” Blaise said eagerly when they had memorised the words.

“Not now. There’s a lot to be done, and it’s quite late already,” Aoife said with a glance at her watch. And as she ruled with a rod of iron, they stood up and were assigned their duties.

“Dee can wash, Blaise and I will dry and Dan can put away,” Aoife said. “There are rules, though. We must sing the song the whole time until we’re done, and the aim is to get it finished before we’ve sung twenty verses. Blaise, you can count.”

“There’s only one verse,” Blaise pointed out.

“Sing it twenty times,” Aoife rephrased her words. “Let’s get on with it. Stations, everyone. Now, one, two, three, four!”

They began to sing lustily in unison, and the congregation in the lounge were startled to hear the song drifting from the kitchen onto the balcony and through into the sitting room. They stopped to listen, and as the small choir sang the last line of the twentieth verse, and Dan slid the last fork into the cutlery drawer, they cheered.

“Too old for games, Dan?” Aoife asked him.

Daniel shrugged, and Aoife grinned. She knew he’d enjoyed it really, though he’d have rather died than own it, and she was not going to force him.

“That was great,” cried Blaise. “Can we do this every morning?”

Aoife chuckled. “I think everyone will get rather bored of the same song twenty times over every morning for two months. But they will be grateful if it gets done. It’s good doing it as a group. It makes it much quicker, and I just love the community feeling.”

“Well, we are a family aren’t we?” said Blaise.

“Yes, we are a family,” Aoife smiled. “We are a family, and what better community than a family?” A couple of involuntary tears sprung to her eyes as she thought of her distant parents. Would they ever visit her? Could they ever learn to care about her? Did she even care any more?

She wiped them away quickly. The children mustn’t see her crying. She was the morale of the family. What she felt, they felt. What she did, they did. That was why she had made a special effort today to do something special.

“We need a harmony,” Delia said, considering. “If only one of us were musical.”

“Aoife plays the ukulele,” Blaise put forward. “Aoife, you can write us a harmony.”

“No, thank you!” Aoife rejoined quickly. “I’m no musical wonder, and I can’t actually follow a melody on a stave, or whatever they call it. I wish I’d made the effort to learn properly, actually – did you know that on average musicians live eight years longer than the ignorant, like us? But that’s irrelevant. Now, who’s for swimming?”

“Aoife, I’ve had an idea,” said Blaise.

Aoife glanced questioningly at her.

“What about inviting the Atkins sisters today? They’d enjoy it, I’m sure. Coralie’s great fun.”

“Not more girls,” groaned Dan.

“You got on fine with Basilie,” retorted Blaise.

“It isn’t fair to make Dan put up with three of us, let alone three more,” Aoife reasoned. “Besides, they are spending the day with Mr Atkins today. They told us that, didn’t they?”

“Oh,” Blaise’s face fell. She brightened. “Then what about Vinzent? He’s good fun too, even if he’s old. And then Rob wouldn’t have to come later.”

Aoife had blushed pink at the mention of Vinzent, recalling her embarrassment of the evening before, but she saw the possibilities of this suggestion, and did not veto it.

“I don’t see how we could get in touch with him,” she said.

“He gave Dad his phone number,” Blaise continued. “The night he helped you and Dee home. You were in bed though, because you fainted.”

“I did,” agreed Aoife noncommittally.

“We know what hotel he’s staying at, too,” Delia joined in. “It’s that one up across the lake. I know because that’s where he pointed out to us on the walk yesterday.”

Aoife blushed red again. “Where was I at that time?”

“Talking to Élodie. Why?”

“I just wondered.” Aoife had actually been wondering how she had possibly missed Vinzent’s English yesterday. “Now, Dan, ask Dad for Vinzent’s number, if you’re sure you want him to join us today. That means we’ll have to pack lunch for him and so on too. Do you want him to sleep in the tent with us if we can get one? We’d have to find one with at least two compartments, of course.”

“Of course. Why not? That’s the whole point of it,” said Blaise.

“Then be prepared for Uncle Humph questioning us carefully on whether we trust him or not,” Aoife said with unwonted darkness.

“Of course we do. He’s that kind of person; the trustable kind,” Blaise surmised, and as Aoife thoroughly agreed with her, so it was settled.

The End

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