"When is your birthday?" my mother began.
"7th September, 1994." he replied. My mother sat up a little straighter as she said,
"You're sixteen then, right" nodding to absorb the fact so it remained in her mind, before continuing, "What are your favourite school subjects?"
"I like something in all of them, however I prefer English, Music and Drama over more fact based subjects." My mother nodded as she said, "You're obviously quite creative, then. Do you play any instruments?"
"I play a little guitar, dabble in piano, but I also sing occasionally. Not that I'm trained, it's just a habit, really." My mother smiled as she took of this all in. I smiled too, and stroked the back of Gabriel's hand. Everything was more relaxed now that a few questions had been asked. Then, through my lack of communication, my mother changed everything.
"So, where are your parents?" The sound of metal clinking china stopped. I gripped Gabriel's hand tighter as he became more rigid. I looked into my mother's face as he eventually forced out the words,
"They were killed in a car crash." Everything stopped in the momentary silence. Gabriel relaxed with an expansive sigh, as my mother collected up the bowls. I took my glass to the kitchen, motioning for Gabriel to do the same with his. As we placed them on the worktop next to the sink, my mother said,
"I'm really sorry, Gabriel."
"It's fine, Mrs Bronnley, really, I couldn't have expected Ayla to tell you. I wouldn't want her to have that burden."
"That's very considerate of you, Gabriel. Are you going with Ayla on her philanthropic adventures?"
"Of course, I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"You'd best wrap up warm, then. Here, I'll lend you a coat." My mother went to the cupboard beneath the stairs and took out a long, jet black coat. "It belonged to my husband, and I want you to wear it." She draped the garment over his arms.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Go for it, Gabriel. Could you go and get the soup, please?"
"Of course." He went into the kitchen to get it, his worn, blue Converse hitting the tiles. I turned to get my coat and gloves from upstairs when my mother motioned me to stay.
"He's a wonderful boy, Ayla. Kind, intelligent, loving, helpful. Did he really read Sonnet 130 to the class?"
"Your father loved poetry. He would sit by the old microphone in the stale air of the pub and read out poems by the great masters of words. One night, I sat by the platform to listen, and he read Sonnet 130 to the audience." My mother smiled, her eyes glazed over as she added, "That was the night he proposed." I hugged my mother tightly, and said,
"He's my guardian angel, mum. He's helped me so much. I'll take care of him, I promise."
"I'll make up a little bed for him at the foot of yours for tonight. I can trust you, right?"
"Of course, mum." I laughed. I ran upstairs to get my things, and came back to find Gabriel with my rucksack in the hallway. "Right, bye mum!" I called.
"Have fun, sweetheart! Don't stay out too late!" I took Gabriel's hand as he placed his on my shoulder, and we set out into the English evening.