|It was a sunny afternoon. It was Len, Con, and Margot's first since returning from University. The latter two named were sitting in armchairs in the Saal of Freudesheim, with Cecil sleepily curled up at Con's feet. She was often sleepy these days. Joey was sitting in the playpen, where Phil and Claire scrapped idly over dolls, and Geoff struggled with little Hornby train tracks. Felicity was doing stretches with much pride and her twin watched her with an expression of masculine distaste on his face. The three older boys were plotting and scheming, looking wistfully out of the window, and both Adrienne and Ruey were reading. Melanie Lucas was trying to embroider, and not getting far, and the two Richardson boys were talking in a lordly fashion about who knows what. Even the new quads were in the Saal, two Moses baskets standing proudly by the open window. Reg had dropped by to say hello to his fiancée, and he was now draped over the arm of the sofa, propping up Len and playing with her hair. Jack was at the San.|
Len had not moved or spoken since the baking heat had forced the family to retreat indoors in an effort to keep cool, frozen with the same distant, pensive look in her grey eyes. It was only now that all the afternoon's thinking at last, like the summit of a mountain, came to a point, or at least a plateau.
"I'm going to change my life." she said to the room at large.
"What do you mean - 'change your life'"? asked Con in genuine bewilderment.
"Just that - change my life." replied Len, idly running a finger up and down Reg's arm as she pondered how best to phrase her announcement. At long last, though, words came to her, and she spoke again.
"I'm the eldest, so everyone expects me to behave a certain way. You lot are all really rather hopeless, and I've always been the one who's been organising everyone. Clearing up after Margot, waking Con up. Looking after the babes while Mamma writes or snoozes. And I was going to stay at home - as in, not move out - and look after everyone's kids, teach at the Chalet, and have masses and masses of little Entwistles. Well, I'm not going to. I'm not going to do any of that. Everything about the old Len is going right out the window."
Reg looked up, disappointed. Len ruffled his hair, then continued
"I'm still going to marry you, love, and teach art. Bit of a waste of a degree otherwise. But you lot can learn to look after yourselves, I'm sick of being the Responsible One. I want to muck about, have fun with my life, make jokes like the rest of you do. I had a sh*t time at Uni, not drinking or partying, or even just messing about according to Oxford tradition. I was always the one who said 'don't do that'. They were irritated because I was spoiling their fun. But I spoiled my own fun way more than I ever did theirs. I don't want to be like that any more. I want to be my own person, rather than an accessory in all of yours. I just want to be who I want to be. I've had enough of being stiff, sensible Len. If something needs doing, I! Don't! Care! Do it yourself, and don't expect me to remind you. What I've been missing all these years is me. Some time for me, some self-indulgence. This other little Len has been fighting her way out all these years: one who wants to get all she can out of life, and not worry about everyone else. You can worry about yourselves. It's time to let her out."
A stunned silence greeted the eldest Maynard's speech. Joey had even passed over the expletive. They watched her as she let down her tight ponytail, tying her hair back more loosely, so that strands flowed free. Reg put his arms round her and squeezed her tightly, but Len's eyes were on Joey, waiting for the blow to fall.
It never did fall. Joey clambered out of the playpen, and ran over to the sofa. She clapped her hands in delight.
"Oh, I was wondering when that was coming! You do that, Len, you do that! Oh, come and give me a hug, Len, you've made me very happy!"
Len scrambled to her feet and ran into Joey's outstretched arms, kicking off her shoes. She was embraced tightly, and clung on weakly.
"So you don't...mind?"
"Oh, goodness, no!" It was impossible to say whether Joey or Len looked more surprised. "I want all my babies to be happy, and you were never going to be happy being tied to the family like that!"
Len returned her mother's hug with renewed vigour, then turned round and gave the rest of the family a satisfied nod.
I can't believe it's taken me three years to actually get around to writing this!
Chapter End Notes:
I've just noticed that I've been timing people's ages with canon timing, and not with MM timing - MM being the universe in which Melanie Lucas has been adopted by the Maynards and they have quads. I'm various numbers of years out - the quads are seven years too young. Oh, well. I can't change Len's age, for the sake of the story, and I can't be bothered working it all out. Apologies.