Our second birthday story of the day is by Sheryl Browne - with a little bit of a Christmassy theme as well as a birthday – oooh! As before, make sure you read on until the end so you can enter our competition
Rebecca ignored the guy behind her, who was revving his engine, and attempted to heave the Christmas tree into the green skip. She hated it, its twinkly lights and promises of magical things, its silly garish baubles, the stupid fairy perched on top, smiling serenely, as if she enjoyed having a fern stuck up her backside. She hadn’t been due home until Christmas evening. Nathan had understood she’d wanted to have lunch with her gran, who she loved dearly and had recently had a stroke. ‘We’ll celebrate later, just the two of us,’ he’d promised. Having confided in him she’d always missed out on birthdays, Christmas day also being her birthday, she’d expected him to surprise her. He’d done that all right. It hadn’t been her Christmas wishes he’d been fulfilling … by the light of the twinkly tree lights.
Ooh, bloody men! Rebecca’s fuse fizzled, as the guy blasted his horn. Disentangling herself from the spiteful, spikey tree, she glared at him. What was his problem? Was it her fault some idiot had taken up two unloading bays? Oh, here we go. Rebecca rolled her eyes as the guy climbed agitatedly out of his car. ‘For pity’s sake, will you just move?’ he yelled, gesturing towards her car. ‘I’m in a hurry.’
Gosh, really? ‘In which case, perhaps dumping your rubbish at peak time wasn’t the brightest idea,’ Rebecca pointed out coolly.
‘I’m not here to dump rubbish! I took a wrong turn and … Can you just move, please?’
Giving him a scathing glance, Rebecca turned back to her tree.
‘Unbelievable,’ he muttered. ‘Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re parked incorrectly and—’
‘My problem?’ Flabbergasted, Rebecca dropped her tree in the skip and almost fell in after it. ‘You really are, aren’t you?’ She turned to him, her cheeks blazing. ‘A complete and utter Neanderthal!’
‘What?’ The man looked bewildered, as if it were perfectly acceptable to be strutting around like Heathcliff with a hangover, taking his foul mood out on her.
‘What chauvinistic little gem will you come out with next, I wonder? Some smart remark about my navigational skills?’ Fuming, Rebecca stepped towards him.
‘Whoa!’ The man raised his hands defensively. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. Okay? There’s been an accident and—’
An accident? ‘Oh God.’ Rebecca closed her eyes.
‘Please, would you move your car. I really need to— Dammit!’ Stopping, as a sound emerged from his car that had Rebecca’s heart flipping over, the man whirled around. Anxiously, she followed him.
‘Okay, boy. It’s okay. Stay,’ he spoke softly to the petrified dog on his back seat, trying to prevent it raising itself to its hindquarters.
Rebecca took in its injured leg and almost burst into tears. It was shaking, all over. Poor, poor thing. Instinctively, she yanked off her coat. ‘Stay, baby,’ she soothed, crouching to drape the coat gently over him. ‘It’s all right, boy. We’ll help you.’
‘He obviously likes you.’ The man’s tone was gruff, thick with emotion, as the dog seemed to settle.
‘The keys are in the ignition,’ Rebecca said, meeting his relieved gaze.
They’d both apologised on the short journey there, at exactly the same time. He’d laughed, glancing at her through his rear view mirror. Rebecca noted again how enticing his eyes were, dark and sensual, like decadent dark chocolate. Destabilised, she’d gabbled on about splitting with her boyfriend. Her jobless situation, attempting to redeem herself.
Receiving an urgent call from her gran’s care home, she’d left him with the vet. Walking back to her car, she’d been halfway there when she’d realised she’d forgotten her coat, her purse along with it. She’d fancied he might return it, but then she really wasn’t a good judge of men, was she?
Removing her gran’s locket from her neck for fear she might lose it, Rebecca eased off her formal black shoes and padded to the hall to answer the door. It was her neighbour, she guessed, come to offer condolences.
Pulling the door open, Rebecca blinked in surprise.
‘Hi,’ he said, taking in her attire. ‘It was bad news, I take it? The call?’
Flummoxed, by his presence and the large bouquet he was bearing, Rebecca simply nodded.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he offered sympathetically. ‘Not quite appropriate then, the flowers? I bought them to say thank you. And I bought these …’ Pausing, he produced a cakebox from behind his back. ‘Cupcakes. for your birthday.’
‘But …’ shaking her head, Rebecca squinted up at him. ‘How?’
‘Your driving licence. It was in your purse. I called once before but you were out. I didn’t want you to think I’d cleaned your bank account out and booked an exotic holiday though, so …’
‘Given the state of my finances, you might have managed a day in Bognor,’ Rebecca joked half-heartedly.
He scanned her face, concerned. ‘No luck on the job front then?’
‘No, not yet.’ Rebecca shrugged, feeling very close to tears.
He nodded and furrowed his brow thoughtfully. ‘Don’t suppose you fancy squeezing into a wetsuit, do you?’ he asked, and then, ‘Crap,’ looked panicked, as Rebecca’s eyes sprang wide.
‘Ahem.’ He coughed embarrassedly, ‘Shall I start again?’
‘Good idea.’ Rebecca folded her arms.
He drew in a breath. ‘I run an Aqua Therapy Centre with dog boarding facilities. That’s how I came to be taking the dog to the vet. The accident happened outside. Someone bought him in and … Anyway, I’m advertising for an assistant. Thus the wetsuit proposition. Assuming you can swim and you’d want to wear an, um … You were really good with the dog, and, er …’
He stopped, clearly flustered.
‘What flavour are they?’ Rebecca asked him.
The furrow in his brow deepened. ‘Sorry?’
‘The cupcakes, not the wetsuits.’ Rebecca found herself laughing. It felt good. ‘Would you like to come in and proposition me further?’ She held the door wide.
He smiled and stepped inside, a mixture of relief and mischief now dancing in his extremely enticing eyes
Awww, can always rely on Sheryl Browne for a bit of a heart-wrencher! Gorgeous
If you enjoyed Sheryl’s story and would like to read more of her writing, then you’ll love this competition. For a chance to win a copy of The Rest of My Life and some goodies, simply tell us what you think of the story, either in the comments below or on the relevant Twitter/Facebook post. We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts
You have until Friday 17th June to enter.