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shot through the heart (and you’re to blame)

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“I don’t understand,” Arthur announced, “How they get the camera to be so small for phones these days. I mean, look at cameras! They’re huge! Or bigger, at least. And phones used to be bigger too, didn’t they? Do you know how it works, Skip?”

Martin frowned, trying his hardest to block out Arthur’s endless commentary of the inside of his head. If he could just concentrate, maybe he could get it…

Then he straightened up and looked at Arthur squarely. “Yes, I do understand, but that’s not important.” Arthur deflated a little at this, his shoulders sagging in disappointment. Martin pressed on to his point. “What is important is, are you taking photos of me behind my back?”

“Well, mostly of your back right now because mostly it’s your back facing me.”

“Arthur,” Martin sighed. “You know I can’t concentrate if the camera’s on me!”

Arthur opened his mouth to speak again, then shut it, Douglas’ comparison to a goldfish echoing in his head. He put the camera down quietly. “Sorry Martin. I just wanted to make a lot of memories for your special day!”

“I’m 38! There’s nothing special about that!”

“It’s special to me,” said Arthur, defiantly crossing his arms and frowning as sternly as he could manage. To Martin, it always looked like a hamster trying to glare at you from behind its bars. “Anyway, you said you wanted to do crazy golf!”

Martin glanced down at the score sheet. He had agreed before he realised that Arthur was going to thrash him so completely. Even Douglas was only just winning, overall. And Herc was beating Carolyn, which Martin could almost hear the argument for already. Since the wedding, they had taken ‘bickering like an old married couple’ to a whole new level.
Still, he knew he shouldn’t complain. It wasn’t raining at least. And he was happy, really. In the true, Arthur sense, he was happy. He hated that he was still a worrier, but he was more confident than ever, these days. More content.

And that was because of Arthur, and his MJN family. Because that was what they were, for the rest of their lives.

And, unfortunately, being family sometimes meant you had to get forced to go to crazy golf for your birthday and come dead last.

Martin sighed again. “I’m sorry, Arthur. I just don’t like my photo being taken without me knowing.”

“It’s okay, Skip,” said Arthur, his eyes brightening again. “I know you get competitive when you’re losing.” He beamed broadly, pleased with himself for a successful quip. Finally, after all these years, Douglas’ tutelage was starting to pay off.

As much as he wanted to, Martin couldn’t be cross at that. Arthur was right, after all. He took a step closer to Arthur and took his hand. “You really think 38 is a special birthday?”

“Of course! All your birthdays are special, because they’re all yours and you are the most brilliant and special ever.”

“Arthur,” Martin mumbled, an embarrassed redness spreading over his face. No matter how many times Arthur said it, it never seemed to lose its impact. Quietly, he said, “You know I love you, right?”

Arthur beamed, somehow, even more widely. “Of course. But not as much as I love you.”

Martin felt himself go even redder, but smiled through it, kissing Arthur on the cheek. Arthur squeezed his hand, then pushed him away, pointing back at the blank-eyed skeleton with a gaping hole in its chest.

“You can do it! You’ll be beating Mum if you get a hole in one on this one, and she’s rubbish at this hole but don’t tell her I said that. Look, there’s Herc!” Arthur waved at the others as they rounded the corner.

Herc raised his hand in return, beaming just like Arthur, contrasting Carolyn’s stony-faced stare. No doubt what had happened there, then.

Martin returned to the ball, readjusted his grip on his club. Deep breath. He tried to ignore everyone’s eyes on him, including the skeleton. Deep breath. Hole in one. it couldn’t be that hard.

To his surprise, the ball sailed through the skeleton’s chest and into the hole on the other side.

Then he went deaf in one ear as Arthur cheered into it at a volume he was sure no-one else had ever reached.

He smiled as Arthur threw his arms around him, and wider seeing the reactions of the others; Herc laughing, Douglas pretending to be non-plussed, Carolyn rolling her eyes fondly. He didn’t believe in luck, not really, because it had never really worked in his favour before.

But a little luck every now and again, surrounded by family like this, that couldn’t hurt could it?