“Chickenburger and chips.” says she.
“That’ll be me” says Leon, with his raffish smile. Fragrance only goes and smiles back at him, gives me a glance, as Leon adds, “He doesn’t eat.”
We were settling into our allotted spheres. Six months since I’d last seen him. And I’ve got the feeling this time Leon wants to get shit-faced drunk.
“I’ve given up smoking.” I tell him.
“Happens all the time, Sean.” He uses a red napkin to dab the corner of his mouth. Slaps my fingers away from the scrawny blond chips on his plate, “Get your own, comrade.”
Most people don’t take us for brothers. We share the same biological father, as far as we know. Like most siblings we’ve got our own version of events. Mind you, Leon’s memory is as reliable as a Ponzi scheme.
“Was that week in Yarmouth.”
We tend toward this fraught, knotted subject. Sniff around the air like dogs searching for something long buried.
“Wasn’t Great Yarmouth. Was Hemsby Beach Holiday Park.”
“She ran off with the hairdresser, all the same.”
“It wasn’t quite like that, Leon.”
“While Dad’s in Wakefield prison.”
He knew how to pull my thread, as I, in turn, knew how to loosen his.
Billy and Jackie – affectionately known as Hammer and Sickle to the fellow travellers they met on picket lines – Mum and Dad to Leon and me, had come together in the tumultuous politics of the nineteen seventies, all super strikes, agitprop and liberated sex. Billy was a coal miner from Derbyshire. Jackie was a night-club entertainer from Bootle near Liverpool. So far so… grim? They shunted and dragged us from smoky backrooms, debating halls, desperate I guess, that one of us would carry on the (endless) dialectic.
“We can’t ignore the fact they’re getting back together.”
“Says who, Sean?”
Billy had clobbered a copper, during a heated exchange. Got 3 years for GBH. I’m certain it was Leeds prison. Jackie left him. (They’d never married). For a hairdresser, a dozen years her junior. It was that summer of 1984.
I favour my mum’s side of things. Bless her. Leon couldn’t care less (I almost believe him). Tells me to accept the world as is. Make money. Screw over the occasional idiot. Live. Guilt free.
I hand Leon an embossed wedding invitation. All he can do is stare at it.