Despite it being only about ten degrees C outside the kids are running round in their swimsuits and playing in the paddling pool. I think they genuinely don’t feel the cold. It’s t-shirt and jeans weather at best! Who am I to argue though? They’re having the first day of summer fun in half a year and it’s wonderful to see.
As a result, hubbie and I have had a properly productive Sunday. I’ve done half a dozen loads of laundry, stripped the beds, hoovered the carpets and cooked and baked. Hubbie has emptied the garage and put stuff on ebay (a major feat, I should point out). We even made it to the pub, although after a G&T on an empty stomach I remembered why I don’t drink any more. I went through tipsy to hungover in about thirty minutes. Sad.
We spent this evening watching How to Train Your Dragon. What a marvelous movie. I wanted to see it at the cinema and never got around to it. I love dragons and Toothless has to be the most adorable dragon ever. I wish I’d seen it before I wrote Dragon Wraiths, although maybe it would have been a different kind of novel if I had! I liked the ending (I won’t give it away), I thought it a nice touch of realism.
The weather forecast is rain for the rest of the week, so I don’t think there will be much more paddling pool fun, unless I bring it in the playroom and fill it with teddies. Never mind. One step closer to summer and amen to that.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire gripped Sky’s hand and watched nervously left and right. Kings College spread out behind her, stark against a blue sky. Wind whistled along King’s Parade and it was cold in the shade, despite the sun peeking over the buildings in front of them.
The hand in hers tugged and, when she looked down, a pleading face said, “Can I run along the wall, Auntie Claire?”
Claire clutched her paper coffee cup in close and shook her head. “I don’t want you falling and grazing a knee before they get here.” She resisted the urged to check her phone for the fifth time, to see if they were late or if she was still early. Maybe they won’t come. Fiona definitely wasn’t keen. Perhaps they forgot? I should have asked for his number. How did people ever meet up without mobiles?
Sky drew patterns on the pavement with her pink shoes, scooping demi-pliés like a ballerina. Distracted momentarily, Claire watched her performance while Sky used her hand as a bar.
“Do you do ballet, Sky?”
“I did, last term. Mum said we couldn’t afford it once I grew too big for my leotard.”
A worm of guilt wriggled in under Claire’s rib cage. Her sister was always quick to complain about being poor but she’d figured that was the usual moaning she heard in the office, when Account Execs complained they couldn’t afford the coveted pair of shoes or designer handbag.
“Are leotards very expensive?”
Sky shrugged and continued practising her ballet positions in the shade of King’s Parade. Something about the movements snagged at Claire’s memory and she was surprised to discover she remembered the names. First position, second, third. Her feet twitched, as if they wanted to join in.
“Did you enjoy ballet?”
Sky let go of Claire’s hand and twirled a pirouette. “Oh yes. Hannah and Jenny used to go to the same class as me. They’ll be a certificate ahead of me now.” Her pixie face pulled down in a frown, making the cold in the shade a degree cooler. How expensive can it be? The cost of an M&S sandwich and a latte for a class? When we get back I’ll arrange with Ruth to pay for her ballet classes and costumes. Every little princess should dream of being a ballerina if they want to.
Distracted by her niece’s impromptu performance, Claire had ceased her relentless search of the street, and the hail startled her. With her heart hammering loudly, Claire yanked her head up and she scanned the approaching faces until she located the source of the voice. Without realising it, Claire’s face broke into a wide smile. She grabbed Sky’s hand, as much to resist the urge to hurry over for a hug as to ensure the girl stayed by her side.
And then they were there, facing each other. Claire smiled awkwardly at Fiona, then beamed down at the children. Last of all, she met Josh’s smiling eyes and forgot to breathe.
“Glad you could make it. We’ve been having such fun here: This place is so old. We can’t wait to see round Kings.”
Claire waited a beat too long before nodding. “Us too. Oh, this is Sky, my niece. Sky, meet Josh, Fiona, Lily, Sophie and Lucas.” She indicated each in turn and then looked down at Sky. The girl was peeping out from behind her legs. “Shy, Sky? That’s not like you.”
Josh dropped down to his haunches and twinkled at the hidden girl. “It’s okay, we don’t bite. Are you having fun with Auntie Claire?”
Claire felt as much as saw Sky nodding. Slowly the girl came out and shone a grin at Josh. Claire looked down at her niece’s glowing face and felt a jolt in her chest.
Yes, poppet. I feel like that too.