“Quite rightly too.” Dean agreed. “You eaten yet? I'm famished. We could go to that Chinese place on Grove Lane.”

“Or we could order in? It would take me an hour to get showered and changed.” Tilly laughed. “Girl thing.”

Even the plates were dispensed with and Dean and Tilly opted for a good old fashioned slob-out. Dean 'washed up' by tossing the empty foil containers into the bin.

“Splendid!” He smudged a blob of oyster sauce into his T-shirt. “What are you doing? Tilly was fishing money out of a jar. “Um ... how about no? You buy the next one.” He rolled his eyes and Tilly laughed.

“Did you give the delivery man a tip? I'm soft, I always do.”

“I did, a very good one. I told him not to expect one to avoid disappointment.” Dean grinned. “My mum tips absolutely everyone. It drives my dad nuts.”

“You have any brothers and sisters?” Tilly asked.

“Older sister, Rachael. She's married with a daughter, Laura. I think she's eight, or nine. Maybe ten. She beats me at cards anyway. I presume there's just you?”

“Yes. Under my circumstances, it's just as well eh?” Tilly said. “I'd loved to have had a close family.”

“I'm very lucky in that respect. I still go home and dump all my laundry on my mum. How sad is that?” Dean smiled.

“Very. You big oaf.” Tilly laughed. “Ah why couldn't there have been just my mum and me, eh?” She sighed.

“Can you remember her?” Dean asked carefully but casually.

“No not really. She had dark hair, like mine, but that's about all I can remember. Well that and her hiding me in cupboards when my dad came in roaring drunk.” Tilly said sadly. “Why couldn't he stop drinking for me and her? He did for Penny and Jilly.”

“Well I've said before, it's his loss. You're worth ten Pennys and ten Jillys I reckon.” Dean said gently.

“And my mum never got chance to be.” Tilly mumbled. “He killed her and just left her on the floor in the living room, then staggered off to bed. His hangover kept him snoring in there all night and most of the day. I was awake and trying to make my mum better for hours before I realised she wasn't going to wake up. I was too scared of my dad to go for anyone else and too scared of my dad to go for my dad. I just sat there among the blood and the bones and the smell. I don't know who found me, I can't remember. I remember someone talking about him when he was jailed. It was in the papers. I can't remember who it was they were talking to, just another adult. My mum was pregnant.” Tilly's voice was little more than a whisper.

“Jesus Tilly.” Dean was shocked and heartbroken. “I can't believe they let him out of jail. He should never have been released, in my opinion.”

“I don't think he was allowed to try and see me when he was released. Maybe he didn't want to. I don't know.” Tilly exhaled loudly.

“What made you want to meet him once you were an adult yourself?”

“I don't know that either. Maybe I just wanted the satisfaction of telling him to piss off. I didn't manage that either did I?” Tilly smiled weakly.

“Yes you did. It doesn't matter if he heard you or not. The decision was yours and it didn't have to be verbal. You want him to piss off and he's gone.” Dean reasoned.

“He took my mum from me.” Tilly mumbled again.

“Tilly he has his payback. I know it seems like it's all roses and rainbows for him, but I bet it isn't. He'd rather you disappeared because you're a link to his past, atrocious life. You didn't disappear, you grew and flourished. He can cut you out physically, but he'll never forget what he did and he'll have to live with that. Don't torment yourself with vengeful thoughts, Tilly, you simply don't need them. You succeeded, he never will. Your mum would have been very proud of you.” Dean smiled.

“I don't deserve to feel so sad at times.” Tilly looked at Dean.

“No you certainly don't.” Dean agreed. “And that's exactly what you tell yourself. Sod the lot of it, Tilly. None of it was your fault and it has no right to affect you.”

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