To kick start our birthday celebrations, 5 brave Choc Lit authors have been working on a birthday-themed round-robin. Stop by the Choc Lit blog each day to see where a different author will continue the story, with the conclusion on Sunday 15th. We’ve no idea where the story will take you! Great fun and not to be missed.
Part One by Jane Lovering
Kate stopped, napkin half folded into what she was devoutly hoping was going to be a swan shape, even though it currently resembled an illustration from The Joy of Sex. ‘What do you mean, he’s not coming? Meggie? Where is he?’
Her friend Meg gave a deep sigh and turned her wrist to look at her watch in a theatrical fashion. ‘Right now, he’s probably somewhere over Bulgaria.’ Then, with a grin, ‘Well, you did say you wanted to give your brother a surprise party – maybe you should have just given him a little hint and then he wouldn’t have flown off to Turkey with four of his best mates and a stripper called Lola-Rose.’
Kate looked at Meg, then at the fifty-seven balloons, all bearing the slogan ‘Happy Thirtieth, Mark!’ which bobbed around near the ceiling of her front room. ‘I thought someone would tell him,’ she wailed. ‘I mean, that’s what happens, isn’t it, with surprise parties? They’re never real surprises!’
Meg gave her a look. It was a look that Kate wasn’t sure she liked. ‘Have you considered that maybe someone did tell him? And that he didn’t want a party?’
‘But… everyone likes parties.’
The look intensified. ‘It’s just… sometimes, Katie, you can be a bit…bossy, you know? And all this’—a waved hand took in the decorations, the balloons, the sexually ambiguous table linen—‘it might be a bit much, don’t you think? You could have just put a hundred quid behind the bar at his local.’
Kate slumped onto the sofa arm. ‘What do I do now, Meg?’
‘Try to find some other bloke called Mark who’s got thirty of something to celebrate?’ Meg picked up her bag. ‘And possibly spend all afternoon on the phone cancelling everyone?’ She gave Kate a quick wink and headed for the front door. ‘Right. Now I’ve delivered the bad news I’m popping down to my spiritual home of the off-licence and telling them that the Sale or Return booze is no longer required, okay?’
Kate nodded sadly. I just wanted something fun. Everything is so boring these days. She swept the half-folded napkins into a black rubbish sack. Birthdays are supposed to be parties and balloons and cake… A sudden thought made her jump to her feet. ‘Cake! Oh God, Meggie, I’ll have to cancel the cake!’
The only reply was the slamming sound of the front door. Meg had already gone.
There’s four hundred prawn vol au vents in the fridge. What can I do with four hundred rapidly ageing prawn vol au vents? Take them to the cats’ home? Knock yourself out, guys… And what did Meggie mean, ‘bossy?’ Kate formulated a ‘The Party’s Off’ text and started sending it to everyone in her address book. I’m not bossy, I’m just organised. Someone has to be, after all…
A balloon, adrift from its moorings, bounced gently off the top of her head, its trailing party ribbon and destined-never-to-be-seen cheery message brought a brief flood of tears to Kate’s eyes. I wanted to put on a nice frock and dance to 80’s pop music, that was all. A party, just a little thing… something to keep my mind off the fact that I’ve been dumped yet again by another waste of space…
Filled with a sudden fury, and fuelled by the knowledge that those vol au vents hadn’t come cheap, Kate seized the balloon by its string and stabbed it savagely with a cake knife. The resulting ‘Bang!’ was surprisingly therapeutic, and she found herself jumping around the room, catching at ribbons and dragging the balloons down to the floor to meet a very motivated and curiously healing, if somewhat stabby, end.
‘There!’ She flopped back onto the sofa, now decorated with shiny slivers of plastic. Shreds of the ex balloons hung around the room and made her erstwhile tidy front room resemble an extra-terrestrial ground zero. Her vision was still smudged by tears but she felt better. Sufficiently recovered, anyway, to answer some of the return text messages that had been pinging onto her phone while she danced the helium-tango.
She’d just pressed ‘Send’ on a message to the only one of Mark’s friends who’d bothered to get back to her expressing any sympathy, when a sudden, loud crack at the front door made her jump.
‘Open up, armed police!’
Jane Lovering was born in Devon and now lives in Yorkshire. She has five children, four cats and two dogs. She works in a local school and also teaches creative writing. Jane is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has a first class honours degree in creative writing.
Jane writes award-winning romantic comedies and articles for newspapers and magazines. Please Don’t Stop The Music was her first novel to be published in the UK and it won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year Award as well as the Best Romantic Comedy Novel. Her other novels include Star Struck, Vampire State of Mind (Otherworlders: Book 1), Hubble Bubble and Falling Apart (Otherworlders: Book 2).
COMPETITION – NOW CLOSED!
To be in with a chance of winning any five Choc Lit novels – including advance 2014 titles – simply answer the following question:
How many balloons has Kate blown up for her brother’s birthday party? Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered into a prize draw.