It’s our eighth birthday today and we’re celebrating with a birthday story written collaboratively by our authors, competitions, prizes and a hefty slice of virtual chocolate cake! We invite you to join us
Lynda Stacey and Kathryn Freeman have set the bar high and now it’s up to our new author Lisa Hill to continue the story. Let’s see what happens next! Remember to make sense of the story, you will need to read the parts in order:
Lynda Stacey’s Part One is HERE
Kathryn Freeman’s Part Two is HERE
If you read right until the end you might just find a competition to enter too!
The Birthday Surprise – Part Three by Lisa Hill
Anna folded up the crumpled, old letter and returned it to her clutch bag as Helen’s clapped out old Mini Cooper rattled through the front gates to the house.
Helen let out a low whistle. ‘The Dohertys have certainly done well for themselves.’
Anna followed Helen’s gaze as she looked up at the old, Georgian limestone house, covered in wisteria, shining like a beacon with all its windows lit up.
She frowned. ‘How did you know Declan’s got a brother?’
‘Oh, I just meant the family in general,’ Helen said, breezily as the Mini’s tyres crunched up the gravel driveway.
‘Thanks for giving me a lift,’ Anna said, absently, looking up at the house, in its own grounds with a lake, well more of a large pond, nestled at the foot of the front garden. As Helen steered the car up the inclining driveway, Anna’s mind returned to the letter and the night of the prom. Would he still look the same? She had never forgotten his face. Those deep, intense, blue eyes, that sparkly white smile, the smell of his sandalwood cologne. They had both been sixteen but had felt much older. He’d walked her home and they’d shared a lingering kiss on her doorstep before finally parting at one in the morning with promises of meeting up the next day. Only, life changed the moment she walked through the front door. The lights had all been on and mum wasn’t there. Neither was Dad. Or her sister. Nan was sitting on the stairs, waiting for her to come home, her eyes awash with tears, telling her how beautiful she looked instead of focusing on the fact mum had been taken to hospital.
‘Here we are!’ Helen said, yanking on the handbrake, having reverse parked under a horse chestnut tree.
Anna’s stomach clenched. She’d gone with the black off the shoulder in the end, not wanting all eyes on her if she walked in wearing red. She could be a wallflower in black, appraise Declan from afar and try and work out his motivation for inviting her before she introduced herself.
‘Thanks,’ Anna said, finally taking in Helen’s attire for the first time this evening. She frowned. ‘You’ve got your face on; off anywhere nice?’
‘Oh, just into town. Want me to give you a lift back later?’
‘No, don’t worry, I can get a taxi,’ she said, silently adding that if she got cold feet the moment she stepped over the threshold she could at least call a taxi and go home and save herself the embarrassment of Helen finding out.
‘Okay, have a good night and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!’ Helen waved as Anna got out of the car.
Anna rolled her eyes as she tottered in her black Jimmy Choos over the gravelled drive. She looked at the house and had to concede Helen was right; wherever life had taken Declan, he’d done well for himself.
She made her way down some uneven York flagstone steps and along the path that led around to the front of the house. She stopped in the light coming from a sash window to take her compact out of her clutch and quickly check her make-up. She glanced at the letter again. She didn’t know what had made her bring it. She wasn’t sure why she’d kept it all these years; to remember that night perhaps? Mum never came back from hospital. It was decided that Anna and Helen should temporarily live with Nan but as Mum’s health deteriorated, Anna had to start Sixth Form at a school nearer to Nan’s. Dad had passed on the letter to her. It was short, sweet and to the point but it meant Declan was still thinking about her. She’d replied straight away, writing to the address on the letter, giving her Nan’s address but no reply ever came back. She’d never seen him again.
She must have walked in a daydream around to the front of the house. Perhaps she was just eagerly awaiting their reunion. After all, he’d tracked her down, sent her the invite, he must want to see her. Of course he wasn’t gay! He was only thirty; perhaps like her he’d just not been very lucky in love? Perhaps he’d held a torch for her all these years like she had for him? After all, Facebook said he was single. Perhaps she should stop standing like a divvy at the front door with other guests brushing past her and actually get on with reintroducing herself to Declan Doherty.
She tentatively took the steps up the double fronted house and through the open front doors. The house was lively and chatty with classical music playing in the background. Glasses of champagne clinked, the chandelier overhanging the polished oak floor hallway glistened and there, engrossed in conversation with a taller, younger looking version of himself, stood Declan Doherty. He was slightly taller than Anna recalled but he was instantly recognisable with that slicked back dark hair and wide smile. She could see the boy she once knew standing before her but he was broader, taller and with the addition of stubbly jawline.
Anna swallowed hard.
‘Champagne Madame?’ A waiter asked.
‘I, er, um.’ She could feel her face flushing.
‘Anna?’ Declan’s distinctive voice called out sounding surprised. She plucked up the courage to look at him only to find he was striding towards her, encouragingly with a smile revealing those perfect, straight teeth.
‘Hi,’ she managed to squeak at Declan, suddenly feeling rather shy.
‘Ah, you found us then!’ The taller and equally handsome version of Declan marched up behind him extending his hand. ‘I’m Ralph.’
‘Tah-dah!’ Helen suddenly appeared from a side room looking mightily smug with herself.
‘Surprise what?’ Declan asked, looking as confused as Anna.
‘I’m Helen’s boss.’ Ralph put his arm around Helen.
Anna’s smile fell. She looked at Declan. ‘So, you didn’t invite me to your party?’
‘I, um …’ Declan faltered.
‘Never mind then,’ said Anna, turning on her heel. She pushed past an arriving couple and ran back down the steps.
‘Anna!’ Helen called.
‘Arrghh!’ Sobbed Anna, breathing in the cool night air. Flipping Helen; she’d even got changed into her red dress!
Love this addition from our wonderful new author Lisa Hill! Lisa doesn’t have a book out with us yet but that will change next Tuesday when we release Meet Me at Number Five. Keep an eye out on our Twitter and Facebook to catch a first glimpse of the cover!
To be in with a chance of winning a book and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):
Which shoes has Anna chosen to wear?
To enter, send your answer to email@example.com with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Lisa Hill comp’ by Tuesday 20th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 21st June.