|It was a drunken evening that started it all.|
Jack Maynard wasn't usually one to drink much. Not from lack of interest, but it simply wasn't possible when he was on call so often. Even on the days when he was supposedly free, being responsible for 6 children under 8 (and though he would never admit it, having a somewhat scatty wife...) meant that he needed a clear head. Hangovers were also exponentially more painful when woken the next day by a pile of children clamouring for attention.
But the recent news had made him very quiet, and Jem had felt it would do him good to relax a little, however briefly. So, with a warning to Madge and Jo not to expect them back until the next day, he had accepted no argument and swept Jack off for a weekend away, supposedly to introduce him to a colleague. Jack was so tired after the past few trips across the channel that it wasn't until they were off to the city in the car that he even asked who it was they were meeting. Jem's answer was that he could chose Jim Beam, Mr J Daniels or, in a nod to their current location, William Grant. Jack looked at him in somewhat bemused fashion before registering the names and shaking his head at such a poor joke. He quickly saw that his brother in law meant every word, for they were no sooner booked into their hotel than he was being steered to a good meal, then an armchair by the fire and a whisky placed firmly in his hand.
Jem wasn't one to drink a lot himself, but he had seen Jack getting more and more overwhelmed, and knew that the solid family man Jack was would not admit he needed a break. Nor would he discuss his worries without an awful lot of prompting. The latest news was clearly welcome, but he wouldn't blame Jack for feeling a little overwhelmed, to have yet another addition to the family on it's way, in a strange country, and with so many young terrors already to deal with. Joey was very run down as well, and Jack was doing all he could to make her rest, however much he ignored his own need to do so.
The transformation was gradual, but obvious to the older man, as Jack began to laugh a little more, accepted a further few glasses, until he was sitting back in his chair, almost lounging. A few probing questions, and everything spilled out.
"I'm a lucky man, a lucky, lucky man" Jack kept saying, "Always wanted a large family, always. Sort of thought I'd start a bit earlier... And maybe not quite so many so soon... But lucky, lucky man"
Jem just nodded. He understood Jack's mixed emotions. He'd been so pleased when he became a father himself, relatively late in life, but the influx of the cousins and various wards had overwhelmed him on occasion, wondering sometime quite what he had done to deserve disturbed sleep for a decade. He understood why so many people did have children in their 20s, for his energy in his 30s was far less than it had been. He'd been thankful for the seemingly endless ability to cope displayed by his young wife. Jack on the other hand had a different situation with Joey. Much as she was full of energy, it was often somewhat explosive; not always did she chose the most practical methods of doing things. Joey never meant to be an extra burden, and he knew that Jack fiercely loved her and their chaotic family. But it wasn't the same organised, calm household that Jem had lived in with Madge, despite a similar number of children.
"They don't really cost that much...only little they are, when they start" Jack said, squinting at his brother in law and holding two hands apart to show how small his new child would be. "Little. And they don' need much food cos she has it, you know in, her, you know... Tastes funny but they like it. Only little. Don't have to feed em for a while ..."
He realised that Jack had rambled off somewhere conversationally, though Jem suspected he was going to struggle to walk physically for some time. Working backwards from the mumbled words, he realised that Jack was worrying not just about the energy required, but mainly about the cost of the new child. He didn't like to pry into their finances, but he had the impression that death duties had eaten into Jack's inheritance quite a lot, and this confirmed it. He asked a couple of carefully worded questions, and did some mental arithmetic with the facts he knew, and realised that Jack was right to be worried, their outgoings must surely be larger than their income. He hadn't had to think about it, for his income had been high enough to cover his family costs, but the war had damaged Jack's savings hugely, having been off work so long while both serving and injured, and with the move from Guernsey so suddenly.
"She's lovely, lovely, Joey, my Joey" came a mutter and a heavy lidded Jack nodded forcefully. "yes. She can't help it, that the children come and she doesn't know really, she thinks it's all ok... Lots of them though. And school, they need school, hate to not be able to do it, they'd be so upset not to be with Rix or David...helps that the Madgey school, no the Chalet School gives a bit of hulp, help I mean. But there's still clothes an food, an they all eat and eat and eat and... "
Jem frowned, and looked around, for he knew that Jack wouldn't be keen for anyone but him to hear all of this, the man was naturally quiet and proud. He would see his family as his responsibility, however much Joey would want to contribute with her writing. Authors didn't really make much, when 6, soon to be at least 7 hungry mouths had to be considered. Thankfully they were now alone in the corner of the hotel bar, and none of the staff were in earshot.
"Hooo...hoope you have some idea where my room is..." Jack said, staggering to his feet, and swaying slightly. "because I have...no...clue."
Jem could see a suspicious gleam to his friend's eyes, and realised with a start that Maynard was struggling not to cry, and clearly had been hiding a lot of strain behind his cheerful persona for some time. Jem had no desire to add to the humiliation his friend might well feel in the morning, so quickly pointed Jack in the right direction and helped him to open the door to his room.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Canada, late 1940s