Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Final Part by Kirsty Ferry

Birthday Round Robin PT 5

Thank you to everyone who has messaged us to wish us happy birthday. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by your kind words – and we hope that we’ve shown our appreciation with this birthday Round Robin written by our fabulously talented Choc Lit authors!

But all good things come to an end and it’s Kirsty Ferry who is drawing our birthday celebrations to a close – no pressure, Kirsty! 

Lynda Stacey’s Part One is HERE

Kathryn Freeman’s Part Two is HERE

Lisa Hill’s Part Three is HERE

Jane Lovering’s Part Four is HERE

If you read right until the end you might just find a competition to enter too! ;)  

The Birthday Surprise – Final Part by Kirsty Ferry

‘Magda?’ Declan looked at Ralph, astonished. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Looks like her!’ said Ralph ‘Maybe she’s had a change of heart?’

‘Good grief. I hope not!’ Declan looked down at Anna, his face haunted. ‘My ex. Took it badly when I left her.’ He shook his head. ‘What a nightmare. The blokes will be her brothers. Thanks Ralph.’ He pulled a face. ‘Sorry Anna, I’ll have to go and sort it out. She’ll most likely be drunk, and her brothers like to think they’re all that, but they’ll back down as soon as I shout at them. Always have done. Forgive me?’

He looked so apologetic that Anna just nodded, imagining him squaring up to something like the Russian Mafia, taking on the role of an action hero in a movie. She dipped her head and blushed as she imagined him in a ripped vest with his muscles all exposed. By the time she looked up again, he was running over the grass, back towards the house.

‘You okay there?’ asked Ralph, eyeing her up. ‘You look a bit – damp.’

Anna looked ruefully at her disgusting shoes and scrubbed at her cheeks again. ‘Damp and grubby. I’m not fit to be at a party, really. I think I’ll head back myself and call that taxi. I’ll leave you and Helen to have fun and just go home.’

‘I’ll walk back with you.’ Ralph fell into step beside her. ‘I have a confession, anyway. I did set this up, you know. Me and Helen between us. Dec never forgot you – Magda was the biggest mistake of his life. When Helen and I made the connection, we sort of concocted it all and this seemed a good way of doing it.’ He shrugged. ‘You know, at least get you back in touch with each other. Dec’s a miserable sod at times, and I remember Prom Night was the happiest I’ve ever seen him.’ He looked up and suddenly grinned at the house. ‘Oh here we go. Right on cue.’ A dark shape came around the corner. It paused, and then started running back towards them.

‘Ralph! Where were they?’ It was Declan

‘Ah no! Are they already inside?’ Ralph’s face fell and he swore. ‘I felt sure we’d headed them off!’

Declan shook his head. ‘Fantastic. I should have guessed she’d sabotage this, I should have guessed.’

‘Maybe we’d best go in through the French doors?’ suggested Ralph. ‘Look, it’s dark enough to sneak in through the ballroom. I’ll go ahead and check.’ He melted away and Anna heard a soft click as he apparently opened the door.

‘Hold on!’Anna stopped and reached a hand out, touching Declan’s arm. She wasn’t prepared for the little jolt of electricity it sent around her body, even fourteen years later. She tried to sound more in control than she felt. ‘D’you think I’m going to creep around in the dark when there are potentially Russian Mafioso around?’ She left her hand on his arm, not wanting to pull away from him. It had taken all these years to touch him again and she was damn sure she was going to enjoy it while it lasted.

‘You’re right.’ Declan stopped. ‘They’re very much not Russian Mafia, though. Magda’s from Barnet. No. You stay outside if you want. In fact.’ He grinned and reached a hand out. He put his fingertips gently under her chin and tilted her face towards his. ‘If it’s all right with you, would you consider giving me a kiss for good luck?’

‘Declan!’ she felt her cheeks colour, but she didn’t, couldn’t resist and leaned in towards him. She closed her eyes and as their lips touched, she felt the years roll back and she was sixteen again and there was still the hope of a bright shiny future with the boy she was certain she loved …

Then a light flooded the terrace and the French doors flung open and there was a huge, happy shout: ‘Happy Birthday, Declan!

There was the sound of party poppers and cheering, and there they were, frozen in the light, in each other’s arms for all to see.

Anna sprung away first and stared, horrified at the doorway. Helen was standing there, Ralph’s arm slung around her shoulders and she was smiling quite ridiculously widely.

‘Helen!’ Anna blushed again.

‘What?’ Helen giggled and hugged Ralph. ‘Don’t you think that was just the best idea? We had to get Dec back up here and Magda turning up was all Ralph could come up with! People have been waiting ages to see him and wish him happy birthday! There’s loads more people than we told him there was!’

‘We completely lost him,’ added Ralph with a grin. ‘When you ran off, he didn’t want to be in here at all with us.’

‘Really?’ Anna looked up at Declan, and saw that he was blushing, and his expression was sweetly embarrassed.

‘It’s true,’ he said. ‘Ralph’s a pain and I looked at the options – him and a party I didn’t want; or you, and your pretty shoes and lovely face. They couldn’t keep me in there at all, after I saw you again.’

She laughed and shook her head. ‘And Magda? Is she really likely to turn up and spoil things?’

‘No! That’s why it threw me. She’s living down south with my ex-best friend and their child. It’s why I finished things with her. It was devastating, but I always thought there had to be a reason it happened; there had to be something better coming along.’

‘And?’ She was teasing now, giddy with relief and trying not to cry happy tears and run the risk of spoiling her make-up even more.

‘And it did. In a pair of soggy shoes, looking like Marilyn Manson. Anna, can we try again, d’you think? Properly? Like adults?’

‘I think so – I don’t see why not. Not if you don’t mind kissing someone who’s absorbed most of your lake into her party outfit.’

‘I don’t mind at all,’ he replied softly. And he kissed her again, in full view of the guests who cheered even more loudly that time.

And Anna thought it was quite possibly the best thirtieth birthday party she’d ever been to in her entire life.

You couldn’t ask for a sweeter ending! What a wonderful end to a lovely day. Here’s to another year of fabulous books, talented authors and amazing readers like you :) Thank you all so much!

The Girl in the Painting

     If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, you might like to check out her recent papeback release The Girl in the Painting. Click HERE for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Girl in the Painting and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Where is Declan’s ex, Magda, from?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kirsty Ferry comp’ by Tuesday 20th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 21st June.

Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Part Four by Jane Lovering

Birthday Round Robin Pt 4

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! 

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     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.

COMPETITION TIME!

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 info@choc-lit.co.uk 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.

Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Part Two by Kathryn Freeman

Birthday Round Robin Pt 2

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 started off our Round Robin in a very intriguing way and now it’s up to Kathryn Freeman 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, so read Lynda’s Part One first HERE

If you read right until the end you might just find a competition to enter too! ;)  

The Birthday Surprise – Part Two by Kathryn Freeman

Declan stared in horror at the fancy invitation card – the one announcing his birthday party, for crying out loud – before glaring over at his brother.

‘Tell me this is a joke. Tell me you haven’t sent this out to anyone.’

Ralph, of the dashing good looks and forever smiling face, had the good sense to at least look apologetic, even though Declan knew it was an act. ‘I thought you’d be pleased. Flattered. Excited?’

Declan wasn’t any of those things. ‘I’ll tell you what I am. Fed up. Annoyed. Ready to punch someone.’

Proving he had a strong sense of self-preservation, along with his modicum of good sense, Ralph took a few steps back. ‘Come on, it’ll be fun. A man doesn’t turn thirty every day.’

‘Exactly,’ Declan hissed. ‘I’m a thirty-year-old man. Not a three-year-old boy. I don’t want a frigging birthday party.’

‘Why not?’ Before Declan had the chance to remind him he didn’t do parties, didn’t do socialising. Didn’t do any of the normal things a thirty-year-old might be expected to do, Ralph was talking again. ‘You’ve turned into a recluse and I’m not prepared to sit back and let you waste your life any longer. If you don’t want to celebrate the milestone of thirty years, how about celebrating that it’s been two years, since … you know.’

Declan did know. He didn’t need a ruddy party to remind him of the fact. ‘Not a fact I want to remember,’ he answered curtly.

‘Eight years since you last flashed those dimples of yours?’ It was said with a smile, but the message was clear.

‘Eight isn’t a particularly significant milestone,’ Declan countered, ignoring the dig.

‘Every milestone is significant. Every one worth celebrating, especially if it makes you smile.’

‘I’ve had damn little to smile about for a long while.’

A brief flash of sympathy crossed his brother’s face. ‘I know. Which is why I wanted to do something to rectify that.’

Declan felt a tug of remorse. ‘Okay, I appreciate the sentiment, but a party? Seriously? Do you not know me at all?’ Maybe he no longer did, Declan thought with a wave of sadness.

‘I know you once liked to party,’ Ralph said quietly. ‘I remember your school prom. How you couldn’t stop smiling when you put on that suit. Slicked back your hair like some sort of second coming of Elvis.’

Declan felt his chest tighten as an image of a girl with dark red hair in a long green dress flashed through his mind. Next to her he saw himself, all wide-eyed, innocent and eager. No clue of what life had in store for him. ‘It wasn’t the thought of the party that had me smiling,’ he admitted gruffly.

‘I know. It was that girl you kept drooling over.’ Ralph paused, giving Declan a careful study. ‘What happened to her, do you know?’

Declan sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. It all seemed a lifetime ago. ‘She moved schools, we lost touch.’ He’d written once, painfully scratching out attempt after attempt at a letter until finally ending up with something stilted and short. He’d never received a reply.

‘Umm.’ Ralph’s eyes drifted away from his and over to the window before finally glancing down at his watch. ‘Well, we’d better get ready. Guests are due to arrive in a few hours.’

‘How many guests, exactly?’

‘Well, let me see. If I’d gone with just the people you count as friends, there’d be  …’ Ralph held up his hand and started to count his fingers. ‘Two?’

Declan resisted the urge to throw something at him. ‘Two would be my sort of party.’

‘Yeah. And about as lively as a nursing home after lunch. So I also invited the family we still talk to, plus those of my friends who can tolerate you.’

‘Thanks.’

‘And a few people from work.’

Declan raised his brow. ‘How’s it going on that front? Didn’t you have a new apprentice starting?’

‘Yes, Helen. Lovely girl. She used to go to the same school as us.’

‘Oh?’ Was it his imagination, or was Ralph avoiding his eyes?

‘She’s eight years younger than me but it’s surprising how many connections we had in common.’

Declan narrowed his eyes. ‘Do you fancy this girl?’

‘Of course not.’

‘Then why are you staring at the wall behind me when you talk about her?’

‘I’m not.’ Ralph’s eyes swung back to his. ‘Just because you don’t have a love life, don’t think you have to help mine. I do perfectly well by myself, thank you very much.’

Anxious to avoid any further discussion on how sad Ralph thought his older brother’s life was, Declan nodded. ‘Fine.’

‘Right, I’ll leave you to try and make yourself presentable for your guests.’

As Ralph walked towards the door Declan sighed, pulling out his phone. What the hell? ‘Ralph,’ he shouted, stopping his brother just before he left. ‘Why have I got a whole load of requests to be friends with people on Facebook? I don’t have a bloody Facebook account.’

‘Ah.’ Ralph smirked back at him. ‘You do now. Consider it part of your birthday present, along with the party. My contribution to bringing Declan Doherty back to life.’

Oooh, the plot thickens! What’s led to Declan’s reclusive tendencies – and can a birthday party bring him out of his shell? We’ll find out in a couple of hours time when Lisa Hill takes her turn :)  

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     If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you might like to check out her upcoming paperback, Before You. Click HERE for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning one of Kathryn’s books and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

How many years younger is Helen than Ralph?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kathryn Freeman comp’ by Tuesday 20th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 21st June.