April's Man Chapter 1
The Carter household had been in a state of anticipation all day. The family had lived in the four-apartment semi-detached house in Yoker, Glasgow for twenty-five years. There had been good times and bad, but they had always managed to get by and had lived there quite happily. Now the three daughters were grown-up and their parents were excited today because their eldest daughter, April, was bringing her current boyfriend home to meet them. He was joining them for the evening meal and Mr Carter was still out at work, but Mrs Carter, in particular, was very excited about it because it wasn’t like April to bring men home to meet her parents. Elspeth was sure that her daughter must be serious about this young man because she had invited him to her home. Normally, April’s parents didn’t even know who she was seeing and she had had a great many boyfriends since the age of fifteen, most of them for a very short period of time.
April Carter was in her mid twenties and had quite stunning good looks. She was very slim, but shapely, too, having what is normally referred to as a ‘French figure’. She had a naturally full bustline but was slim-hipped and had a mane of waist-length, blonde hair, which she achieved with only a little assistance in the form of highlights. Her facial features were almost perfect. She had large, round eyes with well-shaped brows, long eyelashes, prominent cheekbones and a smooth, olive-toned skin. She never had any freckles, never broke out in spots and almost never looked flushed or flustered. Her nickname amongst her friends, not surprisingly, was ‘Barbie’.
The Carters’ second eldest daughter was sitting on the settee in the lounge with her arms folded across her chest and there was a moody expression on her face. Her brown hair was scraped back from her face in a pony tail, as it usually was, and she wore no make-up. She was watching her mother and her younger sister, June, running around preparing the food for their dinner. Such a fuss over a man! Honestly, it was only because it was April’s boyfriend who was coming to tea, she was sure, that they were all running round in circles trying to pretend that the house was always this tidy and that they had a three-course meal every evening! She looked at June’s pretty face and noticed she had put on more make-up than usual and that her very attractive auburn hair had been straightened to within an inch of its life! She sighed and her mother glared at her.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance of you helping with the dinner, eh, May? You could at least offer to set the table.”
“I’ve told you before, Mum – don’t call me May. I’ll lay the table if you want, but that’s all I’m doing. He’s April’s guest, so why are we having to do all the work, as usual?”
“Don’t start, May –” Elspeth warned, biting her lip as she realised she had again used her daughter’s second name instead of calling her Belinda, which was her first name and was how she preferred to be addressed these days. When their first daughter had been born in the month of April, she and Pete hadn’t been sure what to call her, so they had simply named her April; and when their second daughter had come along – in the month of May – they had done the same thing. But Elspeth had felt that May was a little short and plain, so they had named her Belinda and had added May in as her middle name. When their third daughter was born – in the month of June – it seemed only right to name her June! They hadn’t set out to do that; it had simply happened that way. Family and friends were generally amused by this and had started calling Belinda ‘May’. However, when she’d reached her teens, Belinda had rebelled against this and had demanded that everyone should call her by her first name. She felt that she was being made a fool of when people called her May, and also she felt plain enough without having a plain name, too.
Elspeth privately thought it was quite unreasonable to expect people to start calling you by a different name after years of using another name. May was a perfectly good name anyway, she told herself. She couldn’t really understand why her middle daughter didn’t like to be called that. Seemed like a lot of fuss about nothing to Elspeth, who was well known for her pragmatism – and her quaint little sayings. She shook her head and pursed her lips, and then went back into the kitchen to mash the potatoes. It was nearly time for their guest to arrive and the large chicken was ready for carving.
June was busily putting the finishing touches to a substantial bowl of trifle and setting out the fancy new glass bowls her mother had bought specially for tonight. She didn’t pay much attention to Belinda’s grumblings because she was used to them and because she knew very well why she said things like that. Her sister was a very nice person, but she was a little on the plain side, whilst both June and April were very attractive girls. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Belinda wasn’t exactly brilliantly clever or blessed with any particular talents, either. She was envious of her siblings and it came out in these moods of hers, especially when any fuss was being made of either of her sisters. It didn’t bother June at all. She understood it; she wouldn’t want to be Belinda and she felt quite sorry for her. It must be difficult to be outshone in every department all the time. April was a very successful model and June was about to start studying Arts at Strathclyde University. Belinda had left school at sixteen and was on her feet all day in a local hair and beauty salon, cutting people’s hair for a very low salary. She had nothing much going for her in life and she was very well aware of it.
The truth of the matter was that Belinda wasn’t really such a plain-looking young woman. However, she didn’t see any point in bothering very much with her appearance. Her sisters were so attractive that it seemed pointless to her to try to compete with them.
Just as everything became ready in the kitchen and the table was finally set for the meal, Mr Carter walked through the front door, threw his coat over the end of the banister and went into the kitchen to give his wife a little peck on the cheek.
“What’s for tea, love?” he asked pleasantly, receiving an exasperated sigh as an answer.
“Chicken. I told you last night. April’s bringing her young man home tonight – remember? And get into the hall and take that coat off of the banister, will you? Honestly, I don’t know why I bother!”
Pete Carter smiled and shrugged, removing his coat and hanging it up in the hall cupboard. He then came back into the lounge and gave each of his daughters a quick hug. Just as he reached his customary chair by the fireplace and sat down, the front door opened again and April and her boyfriend came into the hallway.
Mrs Carter rushed out of the kitchen to greet them and looked expectantly at April, waiting for her to do the introductions, which she did with a carefree air.
“Mum, this is Scott. Scott, Mum – obviously!” April announced, moving across to the hall mirror to check that the wind hadn’t messed up her hair too much.
“Hello, Mrs Carter. Pleased to meet you!” Scott said pleasantly, holding out his right hand to shake hers.
Pete Carter had now joined them and so had June.
“Nice strong handshake!” Pete commented.
“You, too!” Scott replied, grinning.
June blushed slightly and fluttered her eyelashes a little as she offered their guest her hand and she could almost feel Belinda a little behind her, rolling her eyes heavenwards in disgust.
Belinda reluctantly moved forward to greet her sister’s boyfriend and when she was right in front of him and shaking his hand, was immediately struck dumb by his appearance. He was, predictably, drop-dead gorgeous, and he also emanated a quiet, under-stated charisma. He was tall and slim, with dark brown hair and very dark eyes, and when he said “Hi, May!” to her, even his voice seemed to have a velvety, dark-brown quality to it.
“My name’s not May – it’s Belinda!” she replied sharply, causing him to raise his eyebrows in surprise. “My full name is Belinda May, but everyone keeps calling me May because it’s easier. I prefer Belinda,” she added, the tone of her voice brooking no argument.
“Belinda it is then,” he answered smoothly, but the twinkle in his eyes gave away his amusement.
Belinda pressed her lips together in unreasonable annoyance and turned away towards the kitchen.
“I’m starving – let’s eat!” she ordered, taking a deep breath and straightening her back. How much more punishment was she going to have to endure, she wondered as they all trooped into the kitchen and took their places around the dinner table? She was quite sure the rest of the evening was going to be more of an ordeal than a pleasure, so she decided to eat her food as quickly as possible and then escape to her bedroom as soon as she reasonably could without causing offence.
As the evening progressed, however, their guest kept them all very well entertained. He was a doctor, a G.P., and had a repertoire of little anecdotes about the antics and foibles of some of his patients, whilst still carefully respecting their anonymity. He was very attentive towards April, who simply smiled smugly and accepted his attentions as her due. June was obviously completely smitten with him, and it was obvious that Mr and Mrs Carter could not have been more delighted with this young man. He was everything they could have wished for in a partner for their daughter.
Belinda, on the other hand, was in a state of complete emotional turmoil. Scott was handsome, charming and obviously a very nice person. She had never met anyone quite like him and she could have sat and listened to him talking for hours. She tried not to look directly at him in case she would find herself unable to tear her eyes away from his deep brown ones. She sat at the table for longer than she had intended doing, because his company was so entertaining and uplifting. She was actually enjoying herself and she didn’t want him to leave. She said absolutely nothing because she didn’t want anyone to guess how she was feeling. She was horrified by the strength of the emotions she was experiencing; she didn’t want Scott to know how strongly she was reacting to him, nor did she want any of her family to realise that she had fallen madly – and hopelessly – in love with her sister’s boyfriend!