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The Mood In The Room

Joe and his family were gathered in his grandparents' sitting room, furnished with armchairs and an assortment of borrowed seating.

Joe, thirteen, bespectacled, round-shouldered, had a glass of lemonade, the adults cups of coffee.

Tall, matronly, forthright, his grandma loved to ask him questions; never multiple choice.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Her question hung in the air.

"Have you made any friends yet? Got a girlfriend?"

Joe squirmed in his hard-backed chair. Sometimes gran was fun. He loved her then.

Aunt Ruth chimed in. "Aw, he's shy. Can't see him being Head Boy, like my Simon was."

Joe's neck muscles tightened. His bloodstream swam with thwarted adrenaline. There were too many people in the room. Everyone was looking at him. His heartbeat rattled his ribs like the bars of a prison cell.

"He don't say much, do he?" grandma said in her West country accent.

Joe noticed his dad's grave, expectant gaze, but remained silent.

On the distaff side, Joe had endured years of being silenced. His mum gave short shrift to noisy or boisterous behaviour. Eventually, she said: "He's taking it all in".

It wasn't enough. As grandma began another question, Uncle Robert snapped: "Leave him alone," making her flinch.

Gran recounted a piece of local gossip.

The uncle became a hero in Joe's eyes. He would cling to that thought. Until the next time.

Story by:

Tim Dadswell

Twitter: @Tim26595882

12 November 2017