Chapter 1

Tom made his way home. What a, well, was it a night, a month, or a year? He just couldn't tell. According to his watch, it was fifteen minutes. But he had been away for the best part of six months. He knew he was different. He was slimmer, fitter and he felt thirty years younger. How the hell was he going to explain it to his wife? He goes out for a drink on his birthday a fat ... well, slightly fat ... middle aged man, and returns home at least a stone lighter; four inches smaller round the waist, and a whole lot fitter.

'Shit, ' he thought 'I'm in deep shit.'

Well at least the clothes fit. His old clothes had been ruined when he went to Crossroads after he had been stabbed. They had made him some new ones, and these fitted him, fitted him well actually.

He arrived at his front door.

'Well here goes nothing, ' he thought as he turned his key in the lock and entered.

"Hello, darling, I'm home" he called out.

"Hi, dear, I'm watching Neighbours. I've taped it. I thought I'd watch it whilst you were out," she called from the living room.

He went into the living room and said, "Come here and give me a kiss, you beautiful woman."

Pam looked up at him and smiled as she replied, "Oh, what's got into you then, eh? Come home early for your birthday treat have you?"

She stopped the programme and stood up. He swept her into his arms and kissed her passionately

"God I've missed you." he breathed

"Well, you've only been gone four hours! Mind you, if you come home like this, I might let you out a bit more often," she said as she smiled. "Fancy a cuppa?"

He held her in his arms, normality returning.

"That would be wonderful," he replied.

She stood there in his arms. Suddenly she had a quizzical look on her face.

"What's going on? Have you been secretly working out? You feel different," she said.

'Shit, ' he thought. 'What do I say now?'

"Well, yes, I felt I was getting fat ... and, well, with my birthday and all, I didn't want to go to seed," he told her.

"Silly old sod" she said, looking at him from the corner of her eye, 'Hmm' she thought 'not bad, not bad at all, might have to find out where he goes, could do with a little toning myself '

She went off to make the tea. "So how was your evening?" she asked

"Not too bad, had a little trouble on the way home. Some thug was trying to drag a young girl into his car and we stopped him," he told her

"WHAT!" she ran back into the room. "Are you alright? He didn't hurt you did he?" her concern was obvious.

"No, I'm fine; Paul and Tony from the archery club were there. They were the ones who did most of it." he lied.

"You're lying. I can tell. Listen to me Thomas Brown. We've been together over thirty years. I can tell when you're lying to me," she said.

"Okay. I jumped in first, but they were right behind me. Anyway, what could I do on my own?" he told her.

"You daft sod, you should know better at your age! You're not twenty five any more. Honestly, what am I going to do with you?" she said hugging him and giving him a kiss.

She went back to making the tea. They sat drinking tea and watching the rest of Neighbours. Tom was just enjoying the normality of it all. After the programme had finished, they went off to bed. Then Tom and Pam enjoyed his birthday treat.

'It's good to be home' thought Tom as he drifted off to sleep.

Next day was Tom's day off. As they lay in bed, Tom snuggled up to his wife. She could feel his interest rising

"What's got into you lately?" she asked. Her interest was raised as well. They both enjoyed a 'morning delight'.

"Let's go shopping," he said, "I want to buy you something special."

Pam looked at her husband.

"What have you done? You haven't gone and bought that compound bow you were on about, have you?" she asked suspiciously

"No," he replied, "but I can if you wish."

"Don't you dare!" She replied, "That money is for our holiday!"

They went downstairs and had their usual breakfast of tea and toast. It was a nice day. The sun was shining, and it wasn't too cold. They made their way to the main shopping centre and parked the car in the multi-storey car park.

The shops were quiet, it being mid-week, and they very soon found themselves in a clothes shop. Tom had an ulterior motive for bringing Pam shopping. The fact was he needed new clothes, none of the things he had fitted him any more! As Pam looked at dresses, tops and skirts, Tom wandered over to the men's wear department. He looked at a few things, but after a very short while gave up. Like most men ... well, married men at least ... he let his wife choose his clothes. She had done it for so long that he simply didn't have a clue.

He wandered sheepishly over to his wife and said, "Pam, I have a confession. This diet and training thing I've been on has been so successful that none of my clothes fit. I need some new ones. Could you please help me choose, otherwise I'm afraid I'll end up looking like Austin Powers."

The vision that came into her head made her laugh. "Yes, come on we'll get you some new clothes."

Taking him by the hand they went to the menswear department.

Pam had fun, taking her husband shopping. It seemed a long time since they had done things like this together. She couldn't help notice though that something had changed. It wasn't anything she could put her finger on, easily. Maybe it was the way he seemed to walk a little taller, or maybe the fact that he had definitely toned up. There was a certain confidence about him. She did notice, though, how other women were taking second looks at him: a glance here, a smile there, and an extra wiggle as they walked by. Tom was however blissfully unaware of the minor stir he was causing as they walked arm in arm from shop to shop. As it was approaching lunchtime, they decided to have lunch out.

They entered a small café and ordered their drinks. As the waitress arrived with their coffees, a young woman looked over towards them. She stared at them for a few moments and then came over.

"You're okay! I thought he had killed you. You were so brave standing up to him. Shane can be so nasty when he's high. Normally he's just a softy, but when he's high, he just changes. I'm so sorry he hit you. I'm glad you're okay." she said.

"Yes, I'm fine. I don't think you are, though," said Tom. "'Sandra', isn't it? Listen, Sandra, that man was going to hurt you. You said so yourself. Do you think it's going to get any better? He'll apologise, and he'll be sweet ... right up until next time. Then what? A trip to casualty, or worse? You need to think whether this man is worth it! From what I saw last night, the answer's 'no'. Take my advice. Dump this loser. You're young and you're pretty. Find someone who'll love you and treat you right; and not use you as a punch bag. What will it take? Broken arm? Broken jaw? Missing teeth? It's your choice." Tom told her.

The girl stood there with tears running down her face.

"But I love him!" she wailed

"No you don't. You love the man you'd like him to be," said Pam. "But you know he's never going to be that man. I was lucky, I found Tom, some of my friends weren't so lucky. How old are you my dear?"

"I'm eighteen" she replied

"Same as our Samantha" said Tom

"And how old is that wonderful example of manhood?" asked Pam

"He's twenty five," she sobbed.

"Look dear, I know at your age you think the sun shines out of his ass, and he's the only one who'll ever love you. Trust me, he's not. Find a boy nearer to your own age. I know they can be geeky and nerdy; and," she said looking at Tom pointedly, "some never grow up. But don't try to grow up too fast. As Tom said, 'you're young, and you're pretty'; and you've your whole life in front of you. Don't waste it with this tosser." Pam told her.

"What about your parents? What do they think?" asked Tom.

Again the tears started flowing.

"Don't know where my dad is. He left when I was six. Saw him a couple of times after that, but haven't seen him in years. Mum's got a new boyfriend. He's okay, I suppose..." she said, leaving the sentence unfinished.

"But?" said Tom

"Well, sometimes he looks at me, and, well, I feel, I feel kind of uncomfortable. It's not very nice," she continued. "Sometimes he just walks into my room without knocking. I've told Mum, but she just says I'm being stupid."

"Do you live with your boyfriend?" asked Pam.

Her head dropped. "Yes. It's his flat. I haven't really anywhere else to go," she said quietly, "nowhere that I'd feel safe."

Tom looked at Pam, and Pam returned his look. They both nodded.

"Spare room," they said together.

The girl looked at them in puzzlement "What do you mean: spare room?

"We have a spare room in our house. You're the same age as our youngest daughter. I would hate for her to be in your predicament. How would you like to stay with us for a while, just until you can find a place of your own?" asked Pam

"I don't know," she said with the eyes of one who has had her dreams torn apart and smashed just once too often. "Could I?" They could see the hope rising in her eyes. "Could I, really? You'd do this for me?" she asked, bewildered.

"Yes, we would. Now do you want to or not?" said Tom.

"Oh, yes! Oh yes, please!"

She was crying again. She threw her arms around Pam and kissed her, and then threw her arms around Tom and smothered him in kisses.

"You really are my hero," she declared.

"Now, where are your things?" asked Pam.

"Some of them are at my friend Lucy's. I stayed there last night, but most of them are at the flat."

"We'll go and get them then. Will your, Wayne, wasn't it? Will he be there, do you think?" asked Tom

Sandra looked frightened. "I don't know. He should be at work, but these days, you never know," she told them.

"Well, let's finish our drinks, put our shopping in the car, and then we'll pop over and collect your things, shall we?" said Tom.

"Okay" said a very unsure Sandra.

Pam looked at him.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked him. "From what's she's told us of him he sounds unstable."

Tom smiled at "Don't worry love, it'll be fine."

Sure enough it was. They arrived at the flat, collected her things and were back home in time for tea.

The rest of the week went fine, Sandra fit in well with Samantha, their other two children being at university; Lydia was studying to be a doctor, and Robert was studying computing.

The rest of the week went swiftly. Work was, as usual, work. Park and Ride to and from the hospital that was this week's shift. Same old, same old! He didn't mind, it was easy work; 7.00am till 11.00am, 3.00pm till 7.00 pm. and it meant he got home in time for a late tea.

Tuesday came round and it was time for his weekly visit to the Archery Club. He phoned Paul and arranged to meet him fifteen minutes earlier than usual. It was time for another adventure!

Edited By TeNderLoin

and Leo de Grimme

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