It’s the night before the Jungle Party and right now I’m hoping my little girl feels better, as she’s been pale and poorly all day. Are you sick of hearing about the party? I’m a bit tired of it if I’m honest. It’s definitely been worth it though. My daughter is thrilled with her helium zebras and the room is going to look amazing – pictures tomorrow when everything is up and in place.
Understandably there wasn’t any research today. I have done about eight hours’ cleaning just to get my house ready for strangers. I’m not someone who does cleaning on a regular basis. I prefer to do a major blitz every few weeks, usually when we have visitors coming. Sometimes we invite the father-in-law over just to force us to clean and de-clutter.
The clock says it’s about an hour to bedtime. We still have wall hangings to put up, the kitchen work-tops and floor to clean and I should probably be making egg mayonnaise too but I think that will have to wait until the morning.
I had a moment of terror today when a friend of mine turned up with her daughter just after eleven. Poor lady had the wrong day for the party. She’d done her daughter’s hair and everything. My heart bled for her, after I’d recovered from the horror that it was me who had the wrong day. It wouldn’t be the first time. I make a habit of getting the wrong time or day for everything from doctors appointments to kids parties. My phone is my friend, and if it’s not in there as a meeting chances are I won’t make it.
At the end of the month I’ll be pulling all of January’s instalments into an e-book or pdf for anyone who wants to catch up without reading all the daily family chit-chat. I just have to decide whether to charge for it or have it on the site as a free download. I’m not out to make money (not off this book anyway!) but it might be interesting to see if anyone actually buys it. Anyway, on to Claire’s exploits.
Claire tried to roll over to see what time it was and let out a wail of pain. She felt as if she had been slam-dunked by a twenty-stone bruiser. Time check could wait: still was best. If she stayed completely motionless only certain parts of her hurt. Her feet, covered in blisters that had only revealed themselves when she had peeled off her snow boots. Her cheeks, wind-chapped and raw. Everything else was a dull ache until she used any one of the hundreds of screaming muscles, when agony shot through her like a five-year-old trying out acupuncture.
The evening before replayed in Claire’s mind. There had been a sense of camaraderie when they got back to the hostel. The host prepared hot drinks, took their clothes away to dry them and then served up a delicious meal. The five of them sat together discussing the day, with Fi showing photographs she had taken on her iPhone. Claire was amazed at her ability to use the camera in sub-zero temperatures but Fi explained, with a strange look in her eye, that she thought they might be important.
They’d all gone to bed early. The two couples were leaving in the morning to return to their day jobs and there wasn’t a television for them to veg in front of anyway. Claire thought she’d never get to sleep before nine o’clock and surprised herself by sinking into the bed and closing her eyes with no palpable effort. It felt good, as if her body had been doing what it was built to do. Maybe this hiking lark isn’t so bad after all.
That was then. Now, as the sun came up, Claire happily cursed every deity that deigned to come within earshot. She had never experienced so much pain, not even after a brutal spinning session or an all-night-rave.
There was a scrape at the door and Claire turned her head to face it. She couldn’t find the energy to speak, never mind get up and answer it. Go away, she thought silently. I have no desire to see any of my torturers this morning. Go back to your happy, healthy, over-fulfilled lives and leave me to die in peace.
The scratching sound came again. Cursing her visitor’s inability to understand the silent command, Claire opened her paper-dry lips and croaked, “yes?”
“It’s Fi, can I come in?”
Fi. What the hell does she want? Come to gloat? Curiosity overcame ire and Claire called out, “Come in.” She flushed as she heard the weakness of her voice.
Fi’s head peered round the door and her brows contracted in concern at the sight of Claire in bed. “I’m so sorry, did I wake you? We’re off early I’m afraid.”
“No. I was awake. Just unable to move.”
Fi moved closer to the bed, her frown deepening. “Does it hurt? A hot shower and a gentle walk will help loosen off the muscles.” She smiled in sympathy. “I remember my first major hike. Jason dragged me over Scarfell in new boots. I had blisters on my blisters and my body felt like it had been filled with molten lead.”
“Yes.” Claire tried to nod and thought better of it. “That sounds about right.”
There was silence as the two girls watched each other warily. “I wanted to get your email address, so I could send you photos from yesterday.” Fi hesitated. “…for your blog.”
Claire sat up, then cried out as a dozen muscles protested the sudden movement. Her mouth opened but no words came. Her shock must have been obvious though because Fi blushed.
“I’m sorry. We should have come clean yesterday. I’m friends with your boss Carl’s sister on Facebook. When we put in our status update that we were staying in Byrness he said to look out for you. He asked us to goad you into hiking, as your blog was about healthy lifestyle but you weren’t leaving the hostels. I didn’t like it but Jason wanted to see if he could. You did really well especially if that was your first hike?”
The words all came out in a rush and, when she had finished, Fi stood and twisted her hands, staring out the window. Claire didn’t know where to start. She hadn’t heard from Carl once since her arrival in Berwick, despite calling several times and leaving messages with Julia. It made her skin itch to think of that snake discussing her with strangers. As for Jason dragging me on that infernal hike at Carl’s bidding. How dare he? Claire wanted to stalk out the room and find Jason so she could smack him in the face. Except it would hurt too much and Jason didn’t seem worth the extra pain.
“What will you do?”
Claire had forgotten Fi in her rage at Carl and Jason. Aside from being weak and silly and doing what her husband wanted, she hadn’t really done anything wrong. It was a good question. What should I do? Claire’s brain began to ache more than her thigh muscles as she tried to pick through her options.
“What would you do?” Claire looked up at Fi who was still standing by the bed. She thought about her situation, stuck in bed talking about her boss with a total stranger. She looked around at the sparse bedroom, the still-damp rucksack, the worried-looking lady, and began to laugh. It hurt her tummy muscles but she laughed anyway. It felt good. Fi looked shocked at first, as if Claire had snapped and had some sort of breakdown. Then she too began to giggle.
“I’d probably smack Jason in the face if he played a trick like that on me. Except I wouldn’t because I’m a wuss. I bet you could though. And that boss of yours. He sounds nothing like his sister, she’s a darling.”
Claire laughed harder and wiped at her streaming eyes. Eventually she had no more mirth left and she sank back into the pillows like a punctured balloon.
What should I do?
“Can you send me those pictures? If Carl wants outdoor pursuits, I’ll give him outdoors.”
Fi grinned and started tapping details into her phone. As she was leaving she turned back to face Claire.
“Piece of advice?”
“Of course, fire away.”
“Buy some hiking trousers.”
Claire grinned and nodded before sinking back into the protective hug of the bed.