By Sue James


November 1976


“Oh, help!” Chip Morton groaned in a theatrical fashion and dropped the letter he was reading on to his lap.


“Bad news?” Lee Crane turned his attention from the television news to eye his best friend with concern.


“She’s trying to marry me off!” Chip rolled his blue eyes almost comically.


“Who is?” Lee queried, a puzzled expression on his tanned face.


“My sister, of course!”


“Helen?” A wide grin replaced Lee’s puzzled look. “Why would she want to do that?”


 “Thinks it’s time I settled down,” Chip grimaced.


“And isn’t it?” Lee couldn’t resist teasing his friend who was now frowning indignantly at him.


“No it is not!” Chip spoke emphatically, accentuating every syllable. There was a pause before he continued slyly, “And if  it is, shouldn’t you be setting me an example?”


“ME?! No way,” Lee shook his dark head. “I’m married to my career.”


“Helen thinks that’s unhealthy,” Chip smirked.


“It probably is for some people,” Lee continued to grin. “But not for me! You, on the other hand, should consider getting married.”


“Why?” Chip’s frown deepened and his blue eyes narrowed as he stared challengingly at his best friend.


Well,” Lee leaned forward in his chair as if he was about to impart something of great importance. “Think how many people you could make happy by tying the knot!”




“Your beautiful nieces to start with,” Lee replied cheerfully. “It would give them the opportunity to be bridesmaids! Think how thrilled they would be to achieve every little girl’s dream!”


Derry?” Chip blinked disbelievingly.


“Okay, maybe not Derry,” Lee conceded reluctantly, “but the boys could be pageboys, just like you were when Helen married Chris. You wouldn’t deny them such a wonderful opportunity, would you?”


“YES!” Chip spoke emphatically. “I’m sure they’ll survive without the experience but if you’re so keen to see them dressing up then you can oblige them! After all, you’re as much an uncle to them as I am!”


“True,” Lee nodded his dark head, his hazel eyes dancing with amusement, “but I don’t have that all important blood tie. Oh, you should see your face, Chip!” Lee burst into laughter. “Anyone would think that you’re going to be marrying a complete stranger in a matter of hours!”


“It isn’t funny,” Chip growled.


“The look on your face is,” Lee insisted. “What on earth did Helen say anyway to make you think she wants to marry you off?”


“You really want to know?”




“Okay,” Chip picked up the letter from his lap and scanned down until he reached the correct place, then he started to read, “We are all looking forward very much to your visit at Christmas. It will be wonderful to see you again and the children are very eager to show you around this part of England. I hope you’re not hoping for a rest because they’re planning so much you’ll need a month to achieve it all! It will be strange celebrating Christmas in a foreign country and away from the extended family so I am especially glad that you will be able to come over here. I’m hoping that Kate Fisher will be able to join us as well. Remember I told you about her?  She...”


“Who’s Kate Fisher?” Lee interrupted, his curiosity aroused. “You’ve never mentioned her before.”


“There was no reason to,” Chip replied patiently. “She’s just someone Helen met in England. If you let me continue I’ll enlighten you.” He turned his eyes back to the letter in his hands and resumed reading: “She is working here right up to Christmas and doesn’t think she will have time to get back to the States for the 25th. If you recall her parents and sister live in Illinois and her brother is based in Germany with the air force. Anyway, I’ve invited her to come and spend Christmas with us. She’s heard so much about you from the children that she is curious to meet you in the flesh...”


Chip stopped reading and thrust the letter under Lee’s nose. “Did you hear that? She’s heard a lot about me...she’s curious to meet me. I’ll go out there happily single and come back with a ring on my finger...Hey; I don’t think its funny...”


Lee was stretched out on the sofa in fits of laughter and Chip glared at him. “I said “I don’t think it’s funny”” he repeated, his tone indignant.


“I agree it’s not,” Lee gasped and then went off into fits of laughter again at the look on his friend’s face.


“Then why are you laughing?” Chip demanded.


“Because… you’re… being… paranoid!” Lee managed to spurt out between laughs. He peered closely at the serious “I am not amused” expression on Chip’s tanned face and forced himself, with some difficulty, to stop laughing. “There is nothing in Helen’s letter to indicate that she expects you to marry this Kate person. It’s just your overactive imagination that is marrying you off.”


“You don’t know my sister,” Chip said in an aggrieved voice. “She’s been trying to marry me off for years.”


“She hasn’t,” Lee dismissed Chip’s complaints. “And I do know your sister...she’s hardly the type to try and make you do something against your will and you’re hardly the type to let her. Besides,” he added cheerfully. “If she’s a friend of Helen’s she’ll be far too old for you.”


“That’s where you’re wrong,” Chip replied, a note of triumph in his voice. “She’s younger than me. Oh, I know all about her,” he continued, as Lee’s raised eyebrows and open mouth registered his surprise. “That was all in the last letter.”


“You didn’t tell me.”


“There was nothing to tell. It was just information about another American Helen and Chris had met in England. There was nothing then about me meeting her.”


“But you absorbed the information?” Lee challenged.


“I absorb everything I read,” Chip retorted, smugly. “I’ve got that sort of brain. Besides, it was interesting that Chris and Helen could move all the way to England for a year and one of the first people they met was American and was born just a few miles from where Helen and I were born. When you think how vast this country is, it’s quite amazing.”


“It’s definitely a coincidence,” Lee nodded solemnly before smiling wickedly at his friend. “Must be fate, you know!”


“Sometimes I think I hate you!” Chip threw a cushion at his skipper who caught it and hurled it straight back sending both of their coffee mugs flying.


“Now look what you’ve done,” Chip growled as he moved to rescue the rest of his mail from stray drops of coffee.


“Sorry!” Lee apologised as he stood up and retrieved the empty mugs. Taking them out to the kitchen he returned with a sponge and proceeded to mop up the spilt dregs from the carpet.


“So, did she send any photos?”


“Huh?” Chip stopped rearranging the cushions to frown quizzically at his friend.


“Photos,” Lee spoke patiently as if Chip was a slow witted child. “Did Helen send any photos?”


“Not this time,” Chip shook his blond head.


“Not this time?” Lee grinned as he stood up from the floor. “Does that mean she sent some last time?”




“You didn’t show me.”


“Didn’t I?”


“No!” Lee feigned indignation as he headed back towards the kitchen with the sponge.


“Sorry!” Chip looked a little shame faced. “I guess I forgot; it was just a few snapshots. You want to see them?”


“Of course!” Lee disappeared into the kitchen and when he returned Chip tossed him a padded envelope. “Catch!”


“Thanks,” Lee caught the packet as he sat back in his chair. Opening it with the eagerness of a child on Christmas morning he flipped rapidly through the half-dozen photos frowning as he came to the end. “They’re all of the children!”


“Of course,” Chip spoke patiently, half his attention on a televised sports report. “What did you expect?”


“A picture of …what was her name?” Lee frowned momentarily at the ceiling before snapping his fingers. “Kate…Kate Fisher!” he said triumphantly.


“And why would Helen send me a picture of a total stranger?” Chip raised his fair eyebrows enquiringly.


“Well, if she’s expecting you to marry the woman you’d think she would at least send you a photo!” Lee replied smugly.


“Touché!” Chip grinned broadly. “Maybe I am over reacting!”


“Undoubtedly,” Lee grinned back, “but I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when you meet her.”


“You could be,” Chip shrugged. “You know you have an open invitation to come home with me any time.”


“I know,” Lee sighed heavily, “and I’d love to be there but I’ve promised my mother I’ll go home…and I know what you’re thinking,” he shot a warning glance at his friend, “...why should I bother when she hasn’t been home on Christmas day for years, but she will be there this year and she wants me to attend my aunt and uncle’s Golden Wedding on the 26th,” he shrugged. “I just feel I should make the effort, that’s all.”


“Shame,” Chip said solemnly. “Kids will miss you.”


“Yea,” Lee frowned momentarily before brightening,”Hey, maybe I could go to your sister’s and you could go to my Mom’s? I haven’t seen most of my relatives for so long I doubt they’d realize you’re not me!”


“No way!” Chip laughed. “I’ll stick to my own family, thanks.”


“Even if it means getting married?” Lee asked slyly.


“Yep!” Chip stood up and stretched his long frame. “But I doubt it’ll come to that. She probably won’t even like me! You coming out to eat? I’m starved.”


“Sure,” Lee stood and stretched his own long limbs. “Probably just as well I’m going to my Mother’s anyway. I wouldn’t want to get in the way of any budding romance!”


“Any more comments like that and you can pay for the whole meal,” Chip said warningly as he stood in the hallway pulling on his leather jacket.


“Spoilsport,” Lee grinned, “okay, no more comments I promise, but if by some amazing miracle you and this Kate do hit it off and get married you will owe me dinner at Rossellini’s, no less!”


“Dream on,” Chip laughed as he opened the door, “because it isn’t going to happen!”



The End