Hanging On: 2013 365 Challenge #153

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

The last few days have been crazy busy. Thursday’s manic Smashwords frenzy had domestic repercussions, in terms of undone laundry and cleaning. Friday was hubbie’s birthday, so started with gifts and cake and tears as Daddy went to work. I took the kids to the Farm to keep them busy but exhausted myself more than them.

We stopped off at a friend’s house on the way home and the kids ran riot in their paddling pool for an hour before sitting down to an alfresco dinner of spag bol. I love my friend! Then we had a trip to Grandma’s house to take Daddy’s cake over and say hi.

Saturday started early, with hubbie leaving to collect his new crazy purchase. As it was the first of June I turned over our photo calendar only to realise it had run out. I should remember it runs June to May (the first photo calendar was a birthday gift for hubbie and they’ve run June-May ever since) but every year it comes as a surprise.

So, being me, I sat down to load photos to a new one on vistaprint, while the kids watched cartoons. Three hours later, when they’d moved on from cartoons to chaos, I was still waiting for the photos to load. For once the kids were saying, “Come on, Mummy, let’s go, let’s go to the Farm,” and I was whining, “Just five more minutes, please.” I’m not very good at walking away from a project.

Taking a trip in the van

Taking a trip in the van

In the end we got to the Farm for lunchtime (with the calendar unfinished) and had a lovely three hours running around (I would post pictures but the camera’s in the car and I’m too tired to move. Tomorrow. The Farm’s wisteria is definitely worth sharing.)

After the Farm we planned to go to grandma’s for a swim while Daddy was driving home, but he’d arrived when we got back. Thus began a long begging argument to have a turn in the van. How is it these discussions can be so exhausting? I hate giving in, but in the end I’m ashamed to say we did.

Then followed a swim at Grandma’s, a wander up the field to see Daddy’s new trailer, and another whining session from Littlest Martin who wanted to go home right up until the point we said it was time to leave. By 8,30pm they were finally both in bed, dinner was in the oven, and I sat down to start my post. I suspect I’ll be finishing in the morning as I have no idea what Claire’s up to. Thank goodness I have some more childcare next week, plus a couple of hours at a spa with my mum on Monday. Maybe I’ll finally catch up on some sleep!

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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:

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Claire looked at the bright green numbers on the dash and scrunched her eyes, as if to block out what they said. It’s nearly midnight. Kim is going to be livid. She’s pregnant, the last thing she needs is her mate turning up on the doorstep like Cinderella’s pumpkin.

Outside the window the streets became familiar, as the breakdown truck finally neared its destination. Rather than anticipation, Claire’s stomach knotted with tension and her eyes itched with unshed tears.

Despite the Customer Advisor’s assurances that the Skoda would be picked up within the hour, it had been over two before assistance arrived. Time enough for Claire to check out of the hostel, track down a security guard to retrieve her belongings from the Snow Dome lockers, and unstick the parking ticket from her windscreen.

Relief that the Skoda hadn’t been towed was short-lived as Claire watched the time tick past on her smartphone clock, like she was in some low-budget movie. She didn’t dare venture in search of coffee in case the breakdown driver arrived in her absence. As a result she greeted him with a tongue-lashing when he did arrive, to which he merely shrugged and said, by way of explanation, “Friday night, love.”

They were the last words spoken between them. The relatively short journey to Kim’s house had taken much longer in the breakdown truck and Claire had been torn between trying to make conversation and risking a nap that might result in her slumped, slack-jawed and drooling, against the driver’s shoulder. In the end she opted for silence.

Now, with Kim’s house around the corner, Claire wondered if she was doing the right thing. Do I want to be in a house of hormones and happy families? At least I won’t have to listen to them shagging endlessly, if Jeff’s away.

She tried to recall something from Ruth’s pregnancy with Sky, so she could offer support if required. With a start, Claire realised she didn’t even remember her sister being pregnant. I guess I was too busy climbing the career ladder to have time for babies. Poor Ruth, no wonder she feels Robert and I neglect her. Mind you, she was still with Chris then: she didn’t need me.

At last they were parked outside Kim’s house, and the silent driver climbed down to release the winch securing Claire’s Skoda to his lorry. With a, “Where do you want it, love?” he followed the gestured response, handed Claire some paperwork to sign, and left.

Poor bloke, I wonder if he’ll get it in the neck from the Missus, being out late on a Friday night? Tough job.

Claire shouldered her rucksack and headed for the porch, praying Kim wasn’t already asleep. Before she reached the door it was flung open and Kim bustled out, her face split in a wide grin.

“Claire, you’re here at last! Let’s see your wrist, you poor thing. Come in, come in, I’ve just been watching Graham Norton. How was the trip? Was Jeff useful? He was glad he managed to catch you before he had to leave. I saw the breakdown truck – did you have to disable the car, or did they take pity on your poorly arm?”

While the words spilled forth, Kim ushered Claire in and walked her to the spare room to dump her bag.

Waddled is probably more accurate. Claire watched her friend’s progress through the house and marvelled that she seemed to be so much more pregnant than when she’d seen her two weeks earlier. How is that possible? It’s like the baby has doubled in size in a fortnight.

Eventually, Kim paused to catch her breath, and Claire was able to speak. She wasn’t used to this garrulous version of her oldest friend, and keeping up was using the last of her energy. After the long silence of the last few hours, her throat felt dry and her mouth unable to form words. She swallowed, searching for something simple to say.

“You look well.”

“Do you think so? I feel completely haggard, but Jeff says I’ve reached the blooming stage – you know, with the flawless skin and glossy hair. Just about makes up for the swollen ankles and the weird dreams and the endless need to pee. Plus I’ve suddenly started to sway like an elephant when I walk. How embarrassing is that? It’s like I suddenly got super-pregnant overnight. So much for trying to get married without it being obvious. Mind you, I tried on a gorgeous dress this week that’s perfect and, with a bit of breathing in, I should be okay. The wedding’s only two weeks away, can you believe it?”

Claire’s brain drowned under the deluge of words. The last sentence shone through her murky mind like a ray of sunlight. Her face must have revealed her shock, because Kim suddenly clapped both hands to her mouth.

“Oh crap, I didn’t tell you yet, did I? One of the hostels we’ve been investigating had a last minute cancellation – seems the groom got cold feet and went to warm them in Barbados – so we’ve been able to book it. We’re begging friends and family to try and come, though we know it’s short notice. And it’s the bank holiday weekend. You’ll be able to come, thought, won’t you, Claire?”

Kim looked at her properly for the first time since her arrival, and Claire saw that her face did look smooth and radiant, although marred by a frown as she waited for her friend’s answer.

A wedding. Lovely. Just what I need to confirm my spinster status – to attend a wedding on my own and field a hundred questions about my love life and all I’ve achieved since school. It’ll be worse than a reunion.

Kim’s face became taut with tension and Claire realised she hadn’t responded to a question that should have elicited an immediate answer.

“Of course I will, Kim. You’re my best friend, of course I’ll be there.”

***

2 thoughts on “Hanging On: 2013 365 Challenge #153

  1. Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog recently. I actually looked at your blog a few days ago but didn’t have time to leave any comments.

    That’s a lot of work to do a daily challenge like that, so congratulations! You should be proud of yourself for sticking with it.

    Here’s a blog post I did about it after finishing my 2011 photography challenge:

    http://dogear6.com/2012/03/07/why-do-a-daily-challenge/

    Have a good week!

    Nancy

    • Hi Nancy
      Thank you for visiting and for all your lovely comments. I think anyone who does a daily challenge is amazing – it’s a bigger commitment than almost anything we do in our lives. Aside from cooking, there isn’t much in life that can’t be put off until tomorrow (at least for me, and even cooking sometimes is only putting something in the oven). Sitting down every day to be creative, and then to be an editor, is much more challenging than I could have believed. But I am very proud of what I’ve done so far this year and it keeps me going on the days when I just want to go to bed! I’m off to look at your post now…

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