Len lay drowsing in bed, knowing she should get up, knowing she would be expected to get up to help, but not wanting to. She just wanted some peace.
School had finished, the final term as Head Girl had gone, she felt drained and tired and just wanted some time alone or perhaps with Ted. She was going to college in the September and was looking forward to it, yet was also scared. It was all so new and unknown, yet at the same time exciting.
But for now what she longed for was peace, some time to herself, to be her, just to be able to breath. And she knew, resentment deep down, that she would not get it, not here, not in this house. It had taken a lot of arguments and discussion to get her own bedroom. At 18 she did not want to share with her triplets, she needed and felt deserved her own space. But even this wasn’t really her own, her mother never knocked, just felt she could barge in whenever she felt like it. Anything private had to be well hidden because Joey would look at anything left lying about. The younger children ran in and out as they liked, it didn’t feel like it was truly hers.
She snuggled further under the duvet, dreading the moment when she would be called to get up, to help with the children, to deliver something, to tidy something, to be the good obedient triplet. The thought made her cringe within herself. Then she wondered just why it hadn’t happened yet, surely it was quite late? A glance at her clock confirmed it was nearly 10.00am.
Her thoughts turned to Ted, loyal, reliable Ted who was staying with them, who knew her feelings, who understood, who listened; even let Len cry over her. And here Len smiled slightly. She had felt feelings for Ted that she was sure went past friendship, that felt more like love. Surely not? Yet why not? Everyone was trying to marry her off to Reg, but Len felt nothing for him, wasn’t interested in him, and yet was expected to conform. The thought of marrying him filled her with despair. ‘No ‘she moaned quietly to herself, almost feeling physical pain.
Then her bedroom door opened after a brief knock and Ted bounced in, straddled her on the bed and said “Wake up lazybones” with a laugh.
“Why” spluttered Len “Get off Ted” half heartily hitting her.
“No” Ted laughed and grabbed Lens hands pinning them to the bed “It’s time to get up”
“Who said so?” Len asked looking up into Ted’s face, a face she knew so well.
“Guess” Ted grinned.
“Mother” sighed Len.
“Yup, she’s taken everyone on a picnic and you are required to help with the kids”
“Stuff the kids” Len muttered. “Can I not have a day on my own?”
“Len Maynard, what are you saying?” Ted’s voice softened “I tried for you; I said you had a headache last night and maybe could use a day resting. Best I could do was to get them to let you sleep a bit longer. She was going to come back to get you but I offered instead.” She looked down at her friend, a strange expression on her face.
“What is it?” Len asked.
“I badly want to kiss you” Ted admitted softly.
“Then why don’t you” Len whispered.
Ted looked surprised then slowly bent down and shyly kissed Len on the lips. To her surprise and delight Len responded, both gentle, both shy.
“I didn’t know” Ted said softly” I wasn’t sure how you felt”
“I wasn’t either, about you, whether I was wrong, but I’m glad I’m not”.
Ted bent and kissed her again, more confidently. “I’ve loved you since we first met”
“Me too, I know that now. Are we alone? Lie with me”
“Alone for now” Ted snuggled into her and held her in her arms “This feels right”
“Very right” murmured Len, kissing Ted again.
As they lay there they heard the front door and a voice calling them. Len said a word rarely heard at school and Ted quickly got up “Its mother, what does she want” Len muttered.
Joey came in the room without knocking “There you are, why aren’t you dressed yet?”
“Mother, would you mind in future knocking before coming in. I’m 18 and I deserve a little privacy” Len said quietly but firmly. This was the first real stand she had taken and was inwardly shaking.
“Don’t be silly” Joey laughed “I’m your mother”
“I’m not being silly, we are expected to knock. Also” Len took a deep breath” I’m not coming with you today, I don’t feel like it. I want to spend some time with just Ted, we never get the chance to be alone.”
Again Joey just laughed at her, ignoring what she had said” Hurry up, I need you to help with the children”
“I –am-not-coming” Len repeated slowly” Ted and I are going off together for the day”
Joey stared at her, puzzled, this wasn’t her obedient Len, the one who looked after everyone for her, who did as she was told.
Len went on “I want to spend some time alone with my friend, I never get the chance here and right now it’s what I want and need to do”
“But Reg is coming with us “Joey said as though she would change Len’s mind with this.
“Stuff Reg!” Len exclaimed “I don’t want to marry him. Mother, just for once, just for a change, let me decide what I want to do, where I want to go and who I want to go with”
“What!! You are promised to Reg” Joey stated shocked.
“No, I am not, I’m not yours to promise” Len told her angrily” No one ever asked me. He went to Dad, you two made the decision. At what point was I ever consulted?”
“You ungrateful child. After all we have done for you!”
“What have you done “Len sighed, seeing that getting angry was pointless “The school was free and for years you have used me as an unpaid nanny for the rest of the kids. Not Con or Margot as much, but me! When did I ever get space, my own time? I had to fight at 16 to change my hairstyle. I had to fight for this room and even this isn’t private, you just barge in whenever you want”
Joey was angry now “Wait until you’re father hears about this “She moved as if to slap Len, but Ted silently stepped forward and she stopped.
“Is he even there” Len sighed.
Joey turned angrily to Ted “Come on”
“No, I’m sorry, it’s as Len says, we want to spend time alone together today” Ted said firmly, feeling Len’s look of gratitude.
Joey glared at them both before storming out.
Len sighed “Why is she like this, she never listens to me, she just expects. They are not my kids, they are hers”
“She has pushed the caring of them in the holidays onto you for years” Ted hugged Len tightly. “What do we do now Len, I’m with you whatever”
“Bless you Ted, you know you will never be invited here again” with a sad laugh.
“I know, but in less than six weeks we will be near each other at college. She can’t stop that?”
“ No, it’s paid for by money left to me, they have no say “Len reached over and kissed Ted” I do just want to be alone with you, to explore these feelings we have, to get to know you as a partner, not just a friend”
“I badly want that too” Ted kissed her fiercely.
“I’d better get dressed” Len stood up.” And prepare for the storm. Do you know you and Ros are the only two people who think of me as me and not just a triplet?”
“Indeed it does” Len sighed” It sucks a lot” She went for a shower. Just as she finished dressing there was a knock on the door. With a look at Ted Len said “Come in” and was surprised when her father entered. What surprised her more was he was not angry; in fact he looked sad and apologetic.
“Dad? I guess mother called”
“Indeed she did. May I sit down?”
“Of course” Len cleared a chair, surprised at his politeness. She and Ted sat side by side on the bed.
“She is angry at you both, very angry” He began.
“I just wanted some space” Len interrupted.
“I know. Len I did some thinking after she called, and on the way here, and I want to apologise”
“What??” Len was shocked.
“For some time it’s been niggling me that we were not being fair to you, nor to a lesser extent all of the older children” Jack paused and took his daughter’s hand. “But I let things slide, you all seemed ok about it, and it was easier not to rock the boat. And I knew you would soon be going to college and could escape, at least at term time. Then I heard Joey discussing with someone just how you would keep an eye on Con, and that she expected you back each holidays to help, that she expected you would marry Reg, live here and have a large family……and I knew that was so wrong, so unfair, yet I did nothing.”
Len squeezed his hand, tears in her eyes; Ted put her arm around Len.
Jack swallowed, then went on” I was a coward, I should have stuck up for you, said no, but I didn’t. And today you had the courage to say no yourself, and I’m proud of you, proud of you for finally standing up for yourself. But you shouldn’t have had to; I should have done it long ago. I failed you and I am sorry, so very sorry.
Len had never seen her father like this before; he had always seemed so strong, so on her mother’s side, rarely disagreeing, rarely there at times. But she had a kind heart and fell to her knees in front of him and hugged him tightly. He hugged her back in a way he never had before, tears running down his cheeks. Shortly they recovered and holding her hands he went on “Your mother is furious right now, she wants Ted out of the house, and she thinks Ted is at fault here”
“What?” exclaimed Len “Because just for once I said no?”
“I don’t blame Ted, I don’t blame you, I blame us, your parents. But I do think it would be unfair for Ted to be here, unfair on Ted that is, because she would get the blame and anger. Ted, I asked Hilary Graves if she would take you and Len in for a few nights, to get you both away from what will be an unpleasant situation, and she said yes”
“Me too? “ Len was surprised.
“Len, I have already failed you, I’m not letting you stay here without Ted to suffer Joey’s anger. I will do the fighting for you if necessary. Pack a bag girls, I want to get you away from here as soon as possible.”
He stood up, and Len stood too and hugged him “I’m sorry Dad” she whispered. “No Len, don’t be, I’m the one who was wrong, and your mother, but not you” He hugged her fiercely” I’m proud of you, always have been. I’m sorry I didn’t show it sooner” And he left.
Len and Ted silently packed their bags, Len trying to process what was happening, Ted not knowing what to say, but trying to show her support. Len stood up” That’s done” she turned to Ted” Will you hold me, kiss me?”
Ted was there in an instant, gently kissing her love, holding her tightly. Unknown to them Jack came to the door and saw the kiss, could see the love between the two girls, and smiled.
“Girls, we need to go” They turned, shocked to him.” No, don’t say anything” he said gently” This is something we will discuss later, but for now just know I approve. Bring your bags” and he left. The girls followed him silently but hand in hand.