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, Kathryn Freeman and Lisa Hill have had their turns and now it’s time for Jane Lovering to step up. 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
Lisa Hill’s Part Three is HERE
If you read right until the end you might just find a competition to enter too!
The Birthday Surprise – Part Four by Jane Lovering
Anna stomped. There was no other word for it, she stomped her way across the driveway, passing groups who threw her puzzled looks that made her cheeks burn like beacons. How could I? How could I have been so stupid to think that he would invite me? And does Helen really not think I know a set-up when I see one?
Aware that the heels of possibly the most expensive shoes she’d ever owned were sinking into mud now, Anna stopped. She was standing by the lake. No, not a lake. A pretentious puddle. Look, he’s even got a rowing boat! Just how pathetically bourgeois Declan is these days! She wondered for a moment how that sweet, shy young man could have turned into the sort of person who would have allowed himself to own a mansion and let her fall for a trick like Helen had played on her …
It was quiet out here. Anna rubbed her hands over her cheeks, smearing the make up she’d so carefully applied to make her look closer to her dewy-skinned sixteen-year-old self, so that Declan would recognise her, and gave herself a talking-to. Yeah. He fancied me when I was sixteen. But that was a long time ago, and we’re different people now, and besides, he didn’t even care enough to send a card when mum died, so just how much did he really like me? Or was he disappointed that I didn’t rip my knickers off for him on prom night? She rubbed her face again and let an image of ‘what might have been’ skip across the surface of the lake in front of her – glorious sex with Declan. Teenage pregnancy. Minimum wage jobs, to keep the kids fed and life in a too-small flat … no. It was probably better that they’d parted that night with their illusions and virginities intact.
‘Are you all right?’ The voice came from behind her and she turned slowly round to see Declan standing on the bank above the lake shore. ‘What’s happened to your face?’ He sounded shocked.
‘Well, fourteen years, for a start! Did you really think I’d look the same as I did on Prom Night? Am I not allowed to have aged?’ Anna took a step back, indignation flaming into her cheeks again. ‘I suppose you still don’t shave and have a poster of the Spooks cast on your wall?’ Another step back as he started to approach down the bank, his shiny evening shoes reflecting the moonlight.
‘I meant … you’ve got black stuff everywhere. You look like a bad Marilyn Manson impersonator.’
The dawning horror as she realised that her mascara must now be equally distributed over her entire face was matched by a slow-creeping cold that told her she’d backed away so far that she was now up to her ankles in the lapping water of the lake. Anna decided there was nothing else for it, and she gathered her dignity beneath her and stood on it firmly. ‘If you were a gentleman you wouldn’t have mentioned it. And you wouldn’t have followed me. You’d let me have my moment of misery in peace.’
‘I didn’t know you were having a moment of misery. Why would you be? Ralph invited you to my party, and you came, next thing you’re dashing off like a Cinderella who’s decided on an early night. I haven’t even had chance to be rude to you yet.’ Declan came down to the lake shore and reached out an arm. ‘Would you like a hand getting out of the water, or will you berate me for spoiling your paddle?’
There was nothing else for it. Anna took the offered hand and found herself tugged up close against Declan. He still smelled of sandalwood, her subconscious noted. She hoped she’d been wrong about the Spooks poster.
‘Why didn’t …?’ they both started to speak simultaneously, then stopped.
‘You still look good,’ Declan started cautiously again, as though waiting for Anna to shout him down. ‘Apart from the black stuff, obviously. I heard about your mum, I’m sorry.’
‘Not sorry enough to write, though,’ Anna said, a touch tartly, but with a warm feeling starting to trickle down through her chest.
‘I was a sixteen year old boy! I had no idea what to say, “sorry your mum died, school is going well and we’ve got a new Head of English?” Not really…’ he tailed off. ‘And I did write, once or twice. But …’ he shrugged. ‘Why didn’t you give me your email address?’
Anna opened her mouth to answer, but couldn’t. Why hadn’t she made it easier to get in touch? ‘I think, when mum died and Helen was so little – I had to look after her. Everything else sort of went out of my head.’
Declan gave her a smile. It was the smile she’d remembered most, she thought. A slow, cautious sort of smile that lit up his eyes. ‘Then maybe we could try again …’ he started to speak, but was interrupted by a flurry of commotion at the top of the bank, and then a breathless Ralph was running towards them, his jacket flapping unbuttoned and his hair awry.
‘You’d better get here, Dec,’ he said, puffing slightly. ‘Magda has turned up with a bunch of blokes and she’s threatening to burn the house down.’
Trust Jane Lovering to leave things on a cliffhanger! Kirsty Ferry has her work cut out for her finishing off this story – but she will be in the next couple of hours. Keep an eye We can’t wait to see how it ends!
If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you might like to check out her recent release Can’t Buy Me Love. Click HERE for more information.
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Can’t Buy Me Love and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):
Who does Declan think Anna looks like with mascara all over her face?
To enter, send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Jane Lovering comp’ by Tuesday 20th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 21st June.