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‘I think you’ve met everyone now, haven’t you?’ Diane shifted position on the arm of the sofa. ‘Apart from Molly and Jude. Oh, and Gemma and Matt. I’m sure Gemma said they’d be here?’ She looked towards the door.

‘No, they were going to, but something came up.’ Harry rubbed Diane’s knee. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to swap places? You don’t look very comfortable.’

‘I’ll survive.’ Grinning, she ruffled his hair.

‘Come on then, grubs up. Come and help yourselves.’ Holding two bowls, Elsie walked into the living and passed Ian one before dragging the office chair from the small desk next to him and sitting down.

‘You should be sitting in the comfy seat. You’re the one that’s been cooking.’ Ian stood up and indicated the armchair.

‘Nonsense. You offered to help. Besides, this is surprisingly comfy.’

‘Okay, my love.’ Leaning down, Ian kissed Elsie before sitting back down.

‘I’ll get ours.’ Pecking her on the lips, Simon stood up.

‘Thanks.’ Jessie watched him as he left and turned to Lauren next to her. ‘Is Charlie getting yours too?’

‘Yes.’ Lauren grinned.

Shifting position on the carpet, Jessie leaned forward. ‘Umm, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but at the pub quiz you mentioned Charlie is a firefighter?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Right. I was wondering if you’d mind me asking you something?’ Jessie glanced towards the door, judging by the chatter and laughter wafting into the living room from the kitchen, Simon would be a while yet. ‘I probably shouldn’t even be asking as me and Simon have only, you know, have only just got together.’

‘Ask away.’ Lauren smiled.

‘Thanks. How did you deal with worrying about him whilst he’s a work? When me and Wendy were in town earlier, a patrol car sped past us, and I literally felt as though I was going to throw up.’

‘You were worried something would happen to Simon whilst he was on a job?’

Jessie nodded. ‘I know it’s silly. I hardly know him, but I really care and...’

‘Hey, there’s no rule book to state when you should start worrying about another person.’ Lauren shrugged. ‘I used to really struggle. It got to the point where I just had to try to shut him out of my mind completely. If he was at work, I wouldn’t even let myself talk about him, arrange anything, nothing.’

‘Are you still like that now?’

‘No. Things got easier. I guess a lot of it was time. The longer I’m with him, the more he goes to work and comes home safe, the less I worry, but I think the main thing that helped, the real pivotal moment for me, was speaking to him about it.’


‘Yes. He’d been on night shift for the week, and I’d hardly slept. I’d been checking my phone every ten minutes, setting an alarm for every hour just in case I did fall asleep. Just so I’d wake up and be able to check my phone. He noticed how tired I was, and he asked me what was wrong. I was honest and told him I hadn’t been sleeping because I’d been worrying something would happen to him and he talked me through everything. He explained the safety measures they have in place, and introduced me to his station manager and the other guys on his crew.’

‘And that helped?’

‘Yes, it did. It helped me to know there were people who cared and loved him at the station, too. Obviously, there’s Owen too. They’re in the same crew and that helps too.’

‘Thanks.’ Jessie nodded.

‘Talk to him. The more you understand the way his department works, the less you’ll worry.’

‘Yes, you’re right. I will. Thanks.’

‘Here we go, macaroni cheese.’ Passing a bowl to Jessie, Simon sat back down.

‘Yum, it smells amazing.’ Turning around, Jessie held up her bowl. ‘Thank you, Elsie.’

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