They say that family is more important than anything; blood is thicker than water, after all. But one family, over the course of four major events, come to realise that this may not always be the case. This play will explore the themes of familial relationships, our misconceptions, and possibly unhealthy attitudes towards them, and the also the idea of loss, love, and betrayal. Anyway, this is a very rough draft of the second act, featuring just the mum and dad of the family, Mike and Sharon, who have just returned from their daughter’s wedding.
The kitchen again. The lights are slightly dimmed, as if the house has been standing empty for some time. Mike and Sharon are heard entering before they are seen. Eventually they enter the kitchen. Mike is wearing a formal, wedding suit, Sharon is wearing an expensive-looking dress. They have just returned from a wedding.
Sharon: Oh, God, put the lights on, I can’t see a bloody thing!
Mike turns the lights on. Sharon winces, covering her eyes.
Sharon: Not that bright!
Mike: We don’t have dimmers, Sharon. Sit down, I’ll get you a glass of water.
Sharon sits at the table whilst Mike pours out a glass of water. He passes it to her then sits down. The pair sit in silence as Sharon drinks.
Mike: Well, that’s it.
Sharon groans, covering her eyes.
Mike: It’s done.
Sharon: Uh huh.
Mike: Our daughter is married.
Sharon: Hip, hip hooray.
Mike: I thought you’d be happy.
Sharon: I am.
Mike: You don’t sound it.
Sharon: That’s because my brain is about to pour out of my ears.
Mike: I told you to slow down, but would you listen? No. You chugged that champagne bottle like you were seventeen.
Sharon: Piss off.
Mike: It was nothing short of embarrassing.
Sharon: That was embarrassing?!
Mike: Well, that and your dancing.
Sharon: Oh? And what about you?
Mike: I was nothing short of delightful.
Sharon: When the Vicar asked who was giving Kate away, what did you say?
Mike: What I was meant to.
Sharon: ‘She’s all yours, mate.’
Mike: All right, maybe not strictly traditional, but I was trying to lighten the mood. You were bringing everyone down with your constant blubbering!
Sharon: I need some paracetamol.
She gets up, rummages through some drawers before finding a packet of paracetamol. She takes out two, looks at them, then takes out two more. She takes the lot.
Sharon: If we’re talking about embarrassing, then let’s not forget what you did to poor Lizzy.
Mike: Here we go.
Sharon: You know she’s a vegetarian!
Mike: If I have to pay for sodding foie-gras, then she is going to eat it!
Sharon: You reduced the poor woman to tears!
Mike: That wasn’t me! That was because you kept on telling her stories from Kate’s childhood!
Sharon: She was interested!
Mike: She was being polite! Why did you even invite her? She just spent the whole reception moaning!
Sharon: Because she’s family!
Mike: And? I didn’t want my family there.
Sharon: You shouldn’t be so nasty, Mike. I think Bruce needed today, after all, he’s had such an awful year. They wouldn’t even let him see Harvey before they put him to sleep.
Mike: Yeah, a tragedy.
Sharon: That dog meant everything to him. And he might be getting evicted.
Mike: Again? That’s three flats in as many months! Why didn’t he just stick with the van?
Sharon: You know why.
Mike: He could have gone on a diet. Speaking of which (Gets up and approaches the cupboards) Have we got anything to eat?
Sharon: You can’t still be hungry! Not after the amount you ate!
Mike: What? I barely even got a look at those vol-au-vent things.
Sharon: You weren’t missing much.
Mike: How did you get one? I thought Bruce hoovered them up before the first dance!
Sharon: I did something you would never think of, Mike. I asked politely.
Mike: Whatever. (Takes out a packet of crisps.) Want one?
Sharon: Any bacon ones left?
Mike: Salt-and-vinegar, or roast beef.
Mike chucks her a packet of crisps, takes one for himself, then returns to his seat. The pair open their packets of crisps and eat in silence for a moment.
Sharon: (Rubbing her temples) This bloody headache.
Sharon: (Looks around mournfully) It’s the end of an era.
Mike: Or, it’s the start of a new one!
Sharon: Things just won’t be the same.
Mike: And that’s bad?
Sharon: It’ll be just like when Mikey left.
Mike suddenly stands up.
Mike: Our daughter is married, Sharon, and she is out of the house! We shouldn’t be sitting around sobbing!
Sharon: What would you suggest we do?
Sharon: Oh, no! Mike! I thought you – (Mike bends down and starts rummaging through the cupboard under the sink) What are you doing?
Mike: Looking – (Stands up with the bottle of champagne in his hand) For this! I bought it for us to drink when Kate finally moved out.
Sharon: How long has it been sitting there?
Mike: Since she was sixteen.
Mike takes two glasses out, placing one in front of Sharon.
Sharon: I thought it was just the airing cupboard you used.
Mike: Nah, I just use that for – how do you know about the airing cupboard? (Pulls the cork out of the bottle with surprising ease. He stares at it with confusion.) There wasn’t a pop?
Sharon: That’s a shame. I always think that’s the best part.
Mike tips the bottle up. The pair watch as a small dribble falls into the glass.
Sharon: No chance of a refund?
Mike: Someone drank it! Someone drank my bloody bubbly!
Sharon: Don’t look at me. You know I don’t like bending down to that cupboard.
Mike: (Sighs) Well, (Picks up the glass) here’s to finally having a child-free house. (Drains the glass. Smacks his lips together appreciatively) Hmm. Not bad.
Sharon: (Suspiciously)What else have you hidden down there?
Mike: Oh, all sorts. (Bends down and starts inspecting the cupboard)Some more presents for you, some forgotten betting slips, some . . . DVDs.
Sharon: Oh? Films? Which ones?
Mike: (Shutting the cupboard quickly)Oh, my mistake, not DVDs. No DVDs whatsoever.
Sharon: Anything else?
Mike: Else? What else would there be? (Realises what she means) Oh. I see. No, Sharon, there is nothing like that in there.
Sharon: There was a bottle of champagne.
Mike: I told you, I put that in there for a special occasion.
Sharon: An empty bottle of champagne.
Mike: Yes, and when I find out who drank it, I’ll shove the bottle so far up their arse they’ll sneeze out the cork!
Sharon: For God’s sake, Mike.
Mike: What? What?! You don’t trust me. So what? I get it. But haven’t I stuck to it? Hmm? Not a drop since . . . not a single drink! It’s all been tomato juices, lemonades, and an unyielding urge to kill myself rather than drink cranberry juice.
Sharon: It’s good for you.
Mike: That’s what you said about jogging.
Sharon: I do trust you.
Mike: And what has it gotten me? Hmm? (She says nothing) Exactly. Didn’t even look at me at the wedding. Can you believe that?
Sharon: It takes time, Michael!
Mike: How much? I can’t stay teetotal for ever! Do you know what it’s doing to my body? I’m losing weight, Sharon! Losing weight, at my age?! I can’t go out with my friends because, let me tell you, they are not interesting people when you’re sober. They once spent ten minutes laughing at a traffic cone. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.
Sharon: Of course, it is, Michael! He is your son!
Mike: Sometimes I wonder about that.
Sharon: And just what is that supposed to mean?
Mike: Hey? (Realises what he just said) Oh, not that! No, you know what I mean. I sometimes wonder if we just went home with the wrong baby, that’s all.
Sharon: Don’t be ridiculous.
Mike: We’ve got nothing in common! Never have.
Sharon: You never tried.
Mike: I bloody well did!
Sharon: You took him to a football match.
Mike: He didn’t enjoy it. Cried through the whole first half and pretty much ruined it for everyone.
Sharon: He was three years old!
Mike: Yes, and he’s held it against me ever since. Maybe that’s the reason!
Sharon: Don’t be stupid, Mike.
Mike: You call that being stupid?
Sharon: Yes! You think our son refuses to talk to you because you took him to a football game?
Mike: It’s no more stupid than the reason you gave.
Sharon: Well, what other reason could there be, Michael?
Mike: I don’t know! Ask him!
Sharon: You think I haven’t? You think I didn’t ask him again, for the hundredth time, at the wedding? You think I didn’t try to push him into even saying hello? I’m doing my best and so should you!
Mike: What do you think I’ve been doing? The boy doesn’t care, and, honestly, neither do I.
The pair sit in silence. Mike staring off into the distance, Sharon staring at him. Eventually she stands up and goes to the cupboard. Mike watches as she removes a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard and two glasses. She returns to the table, puts the glasses down, and pours out a measure each. She pushes a glass towards Mike. He hesitates for a second, wondering if it might be a trap. However, he soon decides it doesn’t matter. He takes the glass and has a sip.
Mike: I did all right with Kate.
Sharon: (Almost under her breath)Couldn’t have done much worse.
Mike: I’d say she’s almost normal.
Sharon: A ringing endorsement. I’m surprised you didn’t put it in your speech.
Mike: Maybe it’s like they say.
Sharon: Like who say?
Mike: You know, the proverbial ‘They’.
Sharon: Oh. Them. And what do They say?
Mike: That children are like pancakes.
Sharon: Christ alive, Mike.
Mike: It always takes a couple of attempts to get it right.
Sharon: I can’t believe I’m hearing this.
Mike: What? You know how it is. The first pancake always gets mucked up. Or, in your case, ends up halfway across the kitchen.
Sharon: Mikey is not ‘mucked up.’ There is nothing wrong with him. (Mike stares at her meaningfully) There is nothing wrong with him!
Mike: Maybe not. All I’m saying is that it’s a good job we had Kate, because otherwise he’d have just been another odd only child.
Sharon: Only children are not odd.
Mike: Carol and Norman.
Sharon: Most only children are not odd. Mikey certainly wouldn’t have been.
Mike: We couldn’t have known that, could we?
Sharon: Our daughter is not some sort of consolation prize!
Mike: I didn’t say she was! I just meant she was a good backup.
Sharon: Jesus, Michael!
Mike: What? My son isn’t talking to me, but at least I still have my little girl.
Sharon: And that’s good enough for you?
Mike: It’ll do.
Sharon: I never knew you felt so strongly about our daughter.
Mike: Well, I mean –
Sharon: Those ten years of pestering her to move out certainly masked your ocean of affection.
Mike: I want a relationship with her, sure, but I don’t want her hanging around all the time! You’ve got to admit, she’s hardly the most stimulating of conversationalists.
Sharon: Ha! You two don’t have conversations! You either grunt at each other from different rooms or argue loud enough to make the neighbours bang on the walls. (Shakes her head) Mike, are you honestly happy like this? One child acting like you don’t exist, and you treating the other like they exist only when it suits you! Is that the sort of dad you wanted to be?
Mike: (Suddenly standing) I’m getting some air.
Mike exits. Sharon sighs, angry with herself. She finishes her drink and then pours herself another one. She sits for a moment, nursing her drink and staring in the distance, lost in thought. She then gets her mobile out and starts scrolling. Occasionally she smiles, or grimaces, depending on which picture she looks at. Now and again, she will mutter something to herself. Mike re-enters. He takes his seat, then pours himself another drink. Sharon looks up but says nothing.
Mike: What are you looking at?
Sharon: Pictures from today.
Mike: That was quick.
Sharon: Oh, it’s just some that Kate and Matt’s friends took.
Mike: No point in paying for wedding photographers these days, is there? Everyone just does it on their phone.
Sharon: Not as good quality, though.
Mike: Any good ones?
Sharon: A couple. Want to look?
Mike: (Shakes his head) You’re all right.
They sit in silence for a moment. Sharon continues to scroll and Mike continues to drink.
Sharon: I . . . I didn’t mean what I said.
Mike: What did you say?
Sharon: That you were a bad dad.
Mike: You didn’t say that.
Sharon: All right, I didn’t mean to imply it.
Mike: I didn’t know you were implying it!
Mike: Is that what you think?
Sharon: What do we do now?
Mike: (Shrugs) See what’s on telly? Although, I’m a bit shattered if I’m honest –
Sharon: No! I meant, what do we do now? The kids are gone. We are, as you like to put it, free. So . . . what do we do?
Mike: Erm . . .
Sharon: Really? You’ve spent every day since Kate turned sixteen praying for this day! Didn’t you have any plans on what we do next?
Mike: I had plenty of plans for what I’d do next. But I had no clue what we’d donext. Besides, why’s it down to me? What grand plans do you have for us?
Sharon: I never said I had a plan. I wasn’t the one who wanted her to move out.
Mike: Piss off, Sharon. You literally packed her bags for her. You would have carried her if it had gotten her out of the house faster.
Sharon: Don’t exaggerate.
Mike: Face it, we both wanted her out of the house. The only problem is, we forgot to think about each other.
Sharon: That’s always been our problem.
Sharon: We’ve never been the couple to plan ahead. We’ve never been the sort to have our lives mapped out ten years in advance. Most of the time we just cross our fingers and hope to survive ‘til dinner time. Always. Even before we found out Mikey was on his way. We’ve been this way since the night we met.
Mike: We’re spontaneous.
Sharon: We’re not spontaneous. We were clueless. We were just two kids who didn’t know what we wanted. We just knew we didn’t want what we had.
Mike: And now?
Sharon: We’re old, we’re smashed – well, I am at least – and our children are moving on. Let’s make some big life decisions.
Mike: Any suggestions?
Sharon: Well . . . (Looks around) I’ve never really liked this place.
Mike: Yes, you have. You begged me to get this place.
Sharon: All right. But I’ve never liked the idea of spending my whole life here.
Mike: (Imitating Sharon’s voice) ‘Ooh, Mike, wouldn’t this be a lovely place to grow old? We could have the grandkids round, all seven of them.’
Sharon: I never said that.
Mike: Who’s the sober one around here?
Sharon: Okay, but like I said, back then we were clueless.
Mike: (Sighs) Fine. Where do you want to grow old?
Sharon: I’ve always liked Clacton –
Sharon: You don’t like Clacton?
Mike: No one likes Clacton.
Sharon: I didn’t mind it.
Mike: Try imagining living there.
Sharon: Maybe not Clacton.
Mike: Why do you want us to move anyway?
Sharon: This place is too big for just the two of us.
Mike: Since when? Seems fine to me.
Sharon: Face it, Mike, we’re not getting any younger. It won’t be long before keeping this place gets too much for us!
Mike: We’re in our fifties, Sharon. We’re not invalids.
Sharon: It’s better to move now, while we can, then wait until it’s too late!
Mike: In this market? Who can afford to buy this place? Hmm? We only managed to afford it because of your mum’s little problem.
Sharon: It was not a . . . ‘little problem’!
Mike: I was trying to be polite. But, let’s be honest, thank God those BetAware adverts never existed thirty years ago, else we’d have been stuck in that grotty block of flats down the road!
Sharon: My mother was not a gambler!
Mike: No, she just visited the dog track twice a month because she really liked greyhounds. (Pause) So what would you suggest? Hmm? What would suit us in our old age?
Sharon: How about a bungalow?
Mike: Christ, you have had a lot to drink, haven’t you? When is this? The seventies? I mean – do they even build bungalows anymore? Next, you’ll start knitting, making trips to the bingo hall, and complaining that it’s too cold in the middle of July!
Sharon: It would be nice! Not too much maintenance, and you know what my back is like! If I have trouble with it now, imagine what it’ll be like in a few years! Stairs could be a real nightmare!
Mike: You’re getting to be a real nightmare. I am not moving into a bloody bungalow.
Sharon: What’s the plan then? To sit in front of the telly until we’re too old to get off our arses?
Mike: There are worse ways to go.
Sharon: I’m not like you, Mike. I can’t just sit around not doing anything. At least when Kate was here it kept me busy.
Mike: You mean you liked running around after her? Doing her washing, cooking her meals, chasing her to go out looking for jobs?
Sharon: It wasn’t the most ideal hobby, but it kept me active.
Mike: I don’t think I’ll ever understand you.
Sharon: If I could just find something to replace that – a garden maybe!
Mike: We have a garden!
Sharon: We have a chipped patio and a brick shed.
Mike: You really think you can replace our two kids with a couple of geraniums?
Sharon: No harm in trying. Life was just so exciting back when we were younger. Every day was different, and we never saw it coming. I – I just don’t want to lose that excitement!
Mike: We don’t have to! And we certainly don’t have to move into a bungalow in bloody Clacton to keep it!
Sharon: And your version of an exciting life?
Mike: We could go to the pub!
Sharon: We tried that. Remember? You spent the whole night playing darts with your mate.
Mike: I asked you to join in.
Sharon: You asked me to call the ambulance when you threw a dart into Owen’s neck.
Mike: Oh yeah.
Sharon: Do you remember our first date?
Mike: Course. It was at Jan and Rick’s party, we –
Sharon: No! That was how we met, not a date!
Mike: It ended like most dates.
Sharon: Not most first dates.
Mike: You haven’t had many good first dates.
Sharon: It still doesn’t count.
Mike: Why not?
Sharon: Because it’s not the one we told the kids. We couldn’t. They wouldn’t understand.
Mike: They would. They’re of the generation where ‘dates’ themselves are considered weird. They’d be horrified at the idea of picking a girl up before teatime and promising to have her back before ten. All the while knowing the mother would be stood watching at the curtains.
Sharon: My mother did not watch at the curtains.
Mike: No. She watched at the letterbox. That’s how she chipped her tooth.
Sharon: I asked you a question! I wish you’d listen –
Mike: Yes! I remember our first date. We went to see a film, didn’t we?
Sharon: Robocop 2.
Mike: Christ, you’re right. We were clueless. (Pause) Have you seriously never told the kids how we met? Not even Kate?
Sharon: It – I – well, it just never came up!
Mike: But us seeing Robocop 2 did?
Sharon: I don’t know why I never told them! Why should I? It’s got nothing to do with them – well, I guess technically it does, but they never seemed interested. Or, at least, I never thought they were.
Mike: Are you happy with how we met?
Sharon: Of course, I’m happy we met! What sort of a question –?
Mike: No! How we met. Are you . . .? I don’t know. It was hardly ideal, was it?
Sharon: At least it wasn’t through an App.
Mike: But Kate and Matt – those two practically grew up together. They know all there is about each other. But us . . .?
Sharon: What’s this all about? Are you drunk already? Going on about how we met? Honestly!
Mike: You’re the one who brought it up with our first date!
Sharon: I just wanted to remind you how exciting life used to be!
Mike: Before we had the kids?
Sharon: Before we let ourselves get old.
Mike: Can’t say I had much of a choice. It’s what happens. Life has a nasty way of happening too quickly. (Suddenly stands) Right. I’m going for a piss.
Sharon: You’re doing that a lot these days.
Mike: What can I say? Sobriety doesn’t agree with me.
Sharon: It’s strange, but now you’re not in the same room, I can talk to you just fine. I don’t have to feel . . . awkward. I don’t have to worry that I’m not explaining myself properly. Not only do you go to the loo a lot more, you also spend a lot longer in there. I should probably be worried. I mean, I am worried. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have a can of Stella stashed in the cistern. The night we met. Honestly? No. I’m not happy with how we met. I don’t think you are either. (Pause as she thinks) Jan and Rick. We haven’t seen them in years. I think he lives . . . where is it now? Cumbria? Not that it matters. It was their new flat where we met. They threw a house-warming party. And why not? Why shouldn’t they celebrate? They’d actually managed to buy a place. Sure, they were sharing with a family of mice, and had a tube line right next to their bedroom window, but it was theirs. I was there with Christopher – never Chris, only Christopher. And you were with . . . I don’t know. I want to say Heather? Which is stupid, because I’m sure you never actually told me her name. We never talked about them, did we? Obviously, in those first few weeks, it would have been awkward to bring them up. But, in all these years, they’ve never come up. Or, at least, we avoided bringing them up. Was it guilt? I know I can answer for myself, but you? ‘Course, asking like this isn’t going to get many answers. Things had been difficult with me and Christopher for a while before then, and on more than a daily basis – yes, I had thought about leaving him. But in that way? I never thought I could be that cold. I saw him again a few months back. I was going to tell you, but – well, when I got home, you were fast asleep on the sofa. Then, by the time you’d woken up, I’d forgotten. He’s good. Old, though. He ended up married with three kids, the oldest is just a year younger than Kate. He’s happy though, which is good. It’s . . . it’s funny, all these years, and I didn’t realise that . . . I always thought that I needed to know. I . . . needed to know whether he was happy. But, when I saw him again that day, I realised that I didn’t give a flying fuck how he felt. The only question is, after all these years . . .
Mike: We need bog roll.
Sharon reacts, suddenly shocked.
Sharon: Hmm? What?
Mike: Toilet roll, we’ve got none left.
Sharon: Oh, right. Okay, I’ll – I’ll get some first thing.
Mike: (Nodding) You know, in spite of everything, I think it turned out all right.
Mike: Today. It went well, don’t you think?
Sharon: Yeah, it did.
Mike: (Checks his watch) Christ. Right, I’m heading up. You coming?
Sharon: Maybe in a bit.
Mike: Suit yourself. See you up there.
Sharon: Love you.
Mike: Good night.
Sharon: Good night.