(This is a revised version of Worth the Risk based on the advice from the judge’s ratings report)
“Wow! I could go for him if I were twenty years younger.” Joan fanned her face with her hand and leaned back against the closed front door.
“Joan!” Viv frowned and crossed her arms “He looked more than 20 years your junior to me! Besides, we’re looking for a companion for mum — not you.”
“I don’t know.” Joan’s eye twinkled. “I’ve always fancied a toy boy.”
Viv rolled her eyes. “Will you ever grow up? Anyway, it’s mum who needs a toy boy, or at least something to revive her, otherwise there’ll be no option but a care home.”
“And I’m not going in one of those places,” they croaked in chorus, mimicking their mum, before collapsing in fits of laughter.
Viv was the first to recover. “What would she make of his outfit? Orange shirt and green shorts. You know how fussy she is about people dressing with dignity?”
“I think it’s cool. Come on sis. The others were so dull, they’d send her to sleep. She’s immobile, not inert. We need someone to rekindle the spark in her mind before it goes out completely.”
“Well, I suppose there’s nothing to lose.”
Joan whipped out her smartphone. “Good! I’ll message him straight away. When shall I invite him back?”
“Might as well get it over with as soon as possible. Then if it doesn’t work out we can call one of the others back before they get a job.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic. He’ll be fantastic.” Joan’s fingers flashed over the screen for a few seconds. “Done.”
Seconds later the mobile chirped. “He’s responded – yeah, cool. See you tomorrow at 8.”
Viv winced. “I’m not sure I want to get up that early!”
Next morning, the two women peered out of the window as Tom swept up the drive on his skateboard, headphones glued to his ears. A quick flick of his heel and the skateboard was in his right hand. The sisters quickly withdrew, as Tom’s left hand reached for the bell push.
Tom’s face broke into a smile as Joan opened the door. “Morning ladies.”
“Good morning Tom. I love the shirt!” Joan grinned at her sister.
“Thanks. I got it in a surf shop. Where is the old girl then?”
Viv pursed her lips. “I’d be grateful if you didn’t refer to my mother as ‘the old girl’.”
Tom’s smile didn’t falter as he stepped inside. “No worries.”
As Joan ushered him into the bedroom, Viv hissed in her ear, “This is a terrible mistake!”
Joan ignored her and knelt beside her mother’s wheelchair. Leaning close, she yelled in the old woman’s ear. “Mum, this is Tom. He’s come to help you out and keep you company for the morning.”
“I don’t need any help,” Gladys yelled back.
Laying down his skateboard, Tom picked up a hearing aid from the bedside table. “Let’s put this in, grandma, and then we can talk properly.”
The old lady grabbed the instrument and shoved it into her ear. “Who are you calling grandma?” she grunted.
“I’m starving. How about breakfast?” Tom wheeled Gladys into the kitchen. In quick succession he put the kettle on, retrieved milk from the fridge, then searched until he found cereal, tea bags and bowls. Tom sat down and started munching his cornflakes, but Gladys just poked at her breakfast.
“I don’t like cornflakes. And this tea is too weak!”
“Can I have your cereals then?” Tom grabbed the other bowl and devoured its contents.
Leaving the table, he put on his headphones and started washing up. Over the next hour, the sisters watched him playing guitar with a broom and dancing with the vacuum cleaner.
Finally he made tea for everyone. Gladys smiled as she sipped the hot brown brew. “That’s more like it,” she said. “What did you say your name was?”
The sisters didn’t see their mum for a few days, so they were amazed discover a note on the door: “Gone to the park.” A fe minutes later, they found Gladys sat on a bench, a blanket tucked over her knees and her wheelchair parked beside her. “Mum, what are you doing here?” Viv asked, tight-lipped as her eyes scanned the area. “Where’s Tom?”
“Over there.” Gladys pointed to the skate park across the path, where Tom was performing complex manoeuvres on the ramps. “He’s a star isn’t he? If I were forty years younger I could fancy him.”
“Mum!” Viv’s face was flushed as she turned away.
But Joan was grinning widely. “Don’t be so stuffy. We’ve not seen her so happy in months.”
Viv thumped Joan playfully on the arm. “No need to be so smug, just because your gamble paid off. Do you think he’d like an ice cream?” And they set off arm-in-arm towards the café.