This festive season feels like an endurance trial, ticking off waypoints as we pass them. Today we struck off two that have been in the calendar for weeks and it felt great.
Even when there is nothing that needs to be done (aside from buying and wrapping gifts in this case), stuff on the calendar always takes up mental space. So, hair cuts for everyone (except Mummy, who has off-set the £30 saved by not getting her hair cut against excessive Christmas spending at least twice!) and then two birthday parties in the afternoon. Job done.
It was actually the perfect time to go to a party disco for five year olds (Hubbie got the shorter straw and went to the three-year-old’s village hall romp!) I got to catch up with mummy friends, watch my daughter dance, and sit quietly in the dark by myself (which is pretty much what I used to do at school discos when I was younger!) I adopted a young girl whose parents had dropped her off, who was standing alone, and was rewarded by seeing her join in a bit later on. And I only had a little stress about organising my own daughter’s do for after Christmas. (We’re doubling up with a school friend whose mummy is far more chilled than me, so could be an interesting experience for both of us. if she’s reading this, I’d like to apologise now for being a stressball worrywart!)
The afternoon was the hardest. Hubbie and I were both suffering from our 3am insomnia (if only the cricket was more worth listening to, I wouldn’t mind my newly discovered inability to sleep) and the children had to put up with a certain amount of grump.
I managed to make everyone dinner, do all the ironing and facilitate a play doh session, but crawled into bed at 8pm, unable to even stay awake for Strictly Come Dancing. I woke up at midnight, remembering I hadn’t written my post or even outlined my Claire installment. (And it seems I’m coming down with a cold which might explain a lot!) The knock-on of a spaced out Friday continues!
I have just read a very funny post on Elf on the Shelf for under achievers which made me chuckle, and also made me wonder why we opt for any extra stress at this manic time of year. My physio friend is happy though – she says the insomnia isn’t confined to hubbie and I, and she’s getting lots of extra work with people needing massages to relax. It’s an ill wind, and all that.
There’s certainly a strong, bitter, wind whistling round our house tonight. Brrr. I say, roll on Spring!
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:
An arm snaked across the bed and pulled Claire into a warm embrace. She snuggled into Conor, finding the spot to lay her head on his chest that already felt like the most natural place in the world. They lay entwined in the dimly lit room, not speaking.
Slowly Claire opened her eyes, half expecting to see Conor’s apartment. The chill steel of the hostel furniture greeted her gaze and she was instantly awake. Events from the previous evening crashed into her like a runaway car.
As if sensing the tension in her body, Conor stroked her hair. “Are you okay?”
Claire gave a short laugh. “Depends. Was last night as awful as I remember?”
She felt Conor’s throaty laugh resonate through his body, and it sent sensations trickling across her skin. “I’ve had less hostile meals out. Restaurant was nice though; adequate food, amazing view, and–” he kissed her on the top of her head, “one rather gorgeous woman who agreed to come home with me. That counts as a result in my book.”
“I’m sorry about Kim, I don’t know what’s got into her.”
“You mean she doesn’t treat all of your…” he hesitated, searching for a word, “male friends to a sarcastic, caustic grilling? Don’t worry, I can handle it. I’ve had worse.”
Claire’s thoughts skittered between memories of Kim’s vicious attempts at humour at dinner, and Conor’s hesitation over the word boyfriend. Why did such definitions get harder as you got older? You happily called a boy you never spoke to your boyfriend at school, but somewhere along the line it became loaded with significance.
After a few moments’ silence, Conor shifted so he could look at her face. “What’s wrong? Are you really upset? Kim’s just jealous, that’s all. Not of us, of her sister. Didn’t you say she ended up in hospital because she lost her baby? Having a glamorous sister turn up with a bump is going to hurt. She’ll be fine once she’s caught up.”
“If by catch up you mean get pregnant again, she can’t. Doctors told her she couldn’t have any more children.”
Conor fell silent and they lay wrapped in their own thoughts, with the thrum of their hearts beating loudly in their ears. Eventually they heard the unmistakeable sounds of life in the room next door, where Kim and Helena had spent the night.
Claire sighed. “Time to get up and think of a way to survive the day.”
“I say we go to the beach. The girls can gripe together, and you can show me how you surf.”
“Wow, loving the outfit.”
Conor’s lascivious grin made Claire blush. She looked down at the short wetsuit and shrugged. “It doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.”
Conor came over and ran his hands down it, making her shiver. “I know.” His eyes gleamed in appreciation.
“Down, boy!” Claire glanced over towards Kim. She thought of all the times Kim and Jeff had made her feel jealous, with their overt displays of affection. Even so, she felt self-conscious receiving Conor’s flattery in front of her and her sister.
The hostilities seemed to have abated since breakfast. Kim looked drawn and tired, and Claire had to remind herself how hard this all was on her friend. It occurred to her that they should have invited Jeff, and she wondered why he wasn’t looking after his wife more. The awful idea that he had found someone else to comfort him germinated in her brain. It was difficult to imagine, but then he had lost a child and his wife, to a certain extent. Not that that made it right.
She gave her head a shake, trying to dislodge the uncomfortable thoughts. Turning her attention to Helena, she said, “There are toilets up there, and I’ve hired you both deckchairs.”
Helena smiled and Claire wondered what she made of it all. She had remained mostly silent and aloof since her arrival and Claire found it difficult to read her flawless, expressionless, face.
With a quick glance at Conor, whose face seemed to say, let’s skedaddle, Claire waved farewell to Kim and Helena and strode up the beach to where the surf came rolling in towards the sand.
With two quick strides, Conor caught up and walked alongside her. “They’ll be fine. Even Kim isn’t going to murder her sister in front of hundreds of witnesses.”
Claire gave him a grateful smile, but said nothing. She was still thinking about Jeff. “Do you think Kim’s husband might be having an affair?” she said suddenly. “Don’t you think it’s strange that he hasn’t been down to visit her, the whole time she’s been at her mum’s? He keeps saying he’s busy, but…”
Conor looked as if he’d rather not pass comment. Claire was about to change the subject when he said quietly, “Who knows? It’s a difficult situation. From what you’ve said, Kim has changed a lot since the miscarriage. Do you know him well enough to give him a call?”
They had reached the surf school, where they had agreed to hire boards and have Claire teach Conor the rudiments. She had told him a proper lesson might be advisable, but he’d just grinned.
“I guess.” Claire shrugged. It felt like it wasn’t her business, but she hated to see Kim so altered. Poor Conor, this wasn’t exactly the romantic weekend he might have hoped for. Determined to put in some effort, she reached over and gave him a lingering kiss.
Just as he was getting overly amorous, she pulled away. “Last one in the water’s a rotten egg.” She pecked him on the cheek and ran towards the surf school to get her board.