Leopard print shoes.
I love the shoes. He will love the shoes, that’s if he turns up. I hope he loves me more than the shoes but the shoes would be a start. Do I want him to love me? A decade is a long time and now I have stretch marks. I know people make promises but sometimes circumstances dictate whether a person is able to fulfil those promises. “Meet me at Marmaris Castle,” he’d said. That was almost ten years ago. Had he since married like I had? Maybe he’s divorced like me. I trembled at the thought. I don’t have a plan if he doesn’t show. I suppose at the very least I’ll get a holiday. I haven’t really had much time to myself since having the girls so a holiday sounds okay, just not as okay as seeing Jason again. I stare at the shoes, admiring the heel and the leopard print pattern, and I grin. He will definitely love the shoes. I pack them in my case. I fly the day after tomorrow. Take me to Marmaris.
Florida, the children and her.
Phillip’s car pulled up on time. I paused and watched as he opened ‘her’ car door. Oh no, does she have to get out? My heart feels as though it’s pumping at the back of my throat, making me feel like I need to gag. She’s getting out of the car. Yes, Miss younger, slimmer, and now just to top it off, pregnant, has just stepped out. Why is it that she looks like she’s been kitted out in the best that John Lewis can offer? When I was pregnant with the twins, I had to make do with leggings and his oversized tee-shirts. Oh yes, my wide-fit trainers were really glamorous; bloody puffy ankles. That’s how it goes when you’re pregnant and a bit hard up. I checked my reflection as they walked up the path. Hair at its best – check, loving the honey hi-lights. Make-up, tidy if not slightly foxy – check. Clothes – best in my price range – check. You can’t go wrong with jeans and a fitted shirt. The doorbell rang. The girls ran down the stairs. “Daddy,” Emily shouted. Shelly followed closely, carrying her favourite teddy bear. I heard the door open.
“Hello my lovely ladies. Are you excited?” Phillip asked. The girls yelled at the same time.
At first I hadn’t been pleased about him taking them to Florida with ‘her.’ It’s a long way to go and I’ve never been apart from them for that long. Three weeks without their shrill voices and animated play was going to seem strange and then there’s ‘her.’ Her has a name. Her is called Mallory. What kind of a name is Mallory? Mallory works in management. Mallory’s American father is some sort of business tycoon, IT sector I think. Mallory obviously works for Daddy’s company. Mallory has the shiniest hair and the firmest behind ever thanks to her personal trainer at the gym. Her gym has a steam room. I imagine her visiting the nutritionist just before getting her weekly manicure. My hands shake. I can see the attraction, I really can. Phillip and I did nothing but argue and Mallory has a fabulous house, a trim bottom and she has a swimming pool. I know this because my children come back from their country retreat and ask me why we can’t have a swimming pool too. I have no idea why Mallory wanted to put my husband in that lovely house but hey, what Mallory seems to want, Mallory gets. It was no good delaying the inevitable. I had to face them.
I took a deep breath and walked down the stairs. Play it cool Annie. Take one step after another in the ridiculously high heels you’ve treated yourself to. Whatever you do, don’t stumble. Be elegant, walk tall and show them that air of confidence that you’ve been practising so well. They come into view and I notice that they both look so well preened. Had Phillip gotten a fake tan? I tut. I have to stop doing that. I’m allowing parts of Mallory to enter my mind. Mallory says gotten all the time. The children even come home saying gotten. I’m forever correcting them.
Phillip smiled at me as he took Shelly’s case from the hall. He’d had his teeth whitened. That had to be Mallory’s influence.
“Hello Sweetie,” Mallory said as she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. I allowed her to hug me. “They are going to have such an awesome time. I don’t want you to worry about them for a single moment. You know I have an Aunt Ellie living in Miami, we’ll be staying at her beach house for one of the weeks. They will have such an amazing experience,” she said. I inhaled her perfume. I didn’t recognise the smell but it was no eau de toilette. It had a depth and a sweetness, which left me needing to inhale again. Her clothes felt soft to the touch. There was no colour fading or bobbling on her light shawl. It was then I realised that the size twelve high street jeans that were holding in my size fourteen stomach had nothing on her. I’ll get my own back when she reaches the third trimester.
Emily left the house and began walking down the path. “Do I get a hug Emily,” I called. She giggled and ran back.
“Sorry Mummy,” she said as she threw her arms around my waist. I kneeled and kissed her soft cheek.
“I think they’re just so excited to go and see Micky and Minnie, aren’t you girls?” Mallory shouted.
The twins yelled again. Big grins spread across their faces. “Even Ernie is looking forward to it,” Emily said as she held up her scruffy teddybear, the bear that Phillip and I had given her on her first birthday. The girls still looked so tiny. My heart missed a beat at the thought of them leaving me for a whole three weeks but despite our previous differences, Phillip is an excellent father. I just hoped in the meantime that Emily and Shelly would still think I was a good mother, after all, buying that swimming pool will never be on the cards.
“Mummy, I forgot Bertie,” Shelly said as she hugged me. Bertie is Emily’s first birthday bear. My girls rarely go anywhere without their special bears.
“That’s okay Love. I’ll go and get Bertie for you,” I said as I left her at the door and ran up the stairs. I ran into their room and started lifting the bedding and opening the cupboards. Bertie was nowhere to be seen. I’ve never known anything else get so lost, so many times. Shelly certainly was the forgetful one. I paced up and down as I tried to think back. She’d had Bertie at breakfast and then she’d taken Bertie upstairs when she was getting dressed.
“We have to get going soon. Can you hurry up?” Phillip called.
“I’m trying,” I said. I heard him murmuring to Mallory. The girls were giggling and running around on the drive, no doubt excited to be going to Disney World. I kneeled down and looked under the bed. How had Bertie ended up there, flush against the wall? I fell onto my front and reached as far as I could. I touched the bear’s arm. Just a bit further and I’d have the bear in my hand. I reached again and managed to grab it. “Ouch,” I yelled as I went to kneel up. My hair was stuck in a bed spring.
“Annie. I’m real sorry to hurry you but we have a flight to catch,” Mallory said.
I wrenched my hair from the spring and yelped as a few strands ripped out. Gripping Bertie, I hurried along the landing and ran down the stairs. That’s when time stopped; that’s how it seemed anyway. Halfway down, I missed the step in my ridiculous shoes. No longer did I feel hot, I felt steaming, stuffy, rushed and flustered. I remember slinging the bear and grabbing the bannister. I remember Phillip and Mallory staring at me as I slid on my bum, hair everywhere, arms flaying, grabbing anything. Then, I landed with my legs apart at the bottom of the stairs. Keep smiling, I thought. Don’t let them see your pain. As I went to stand, the top button on my jeans pinged and hit the front door, allowing my stomach to escape over my waistband.
“Are you okay Sweetie?” Mallory said as she ran over to me.
“I’m fine,” I replied, smiling as I tried to rake my fingers through my hair.
“Here, don’t try to lift her in your condition,” Phillip called as he ran over and offered me a hand up. The cheek of it. How heavy did he think I was? Did he think I would break little Mallory?
“I said I’m fine.” I grabbed the bannister and pulled myself up. My arm ached at the socket and my rear felt as though I’d taken a kicking but I wouldn’t show them my pain. “See, no damage done,” I said as I gasped for breath and placed a mass of tangled hair behind my ear.
The girls were still running around in the garden. Phillip bent down and picked Bertie up. Shelly ran up to him and he passed her the bear. “Thank you Daddy.” Thank Daddy why don’t you. I wanted to cry but I know that would be silly. It wasn’t Shelly’s fault I’d just fallen down the stars while trying to reunite her with her bear.
Phillip looked up at me and said, “Mummy found the bear.” At least he had some decency in there.
Mallory touched him on the arm, displaying her fiery red nails. “We have to go, really. Girls, say goodbye to your Mummy.”
Shelly and Emily ran up to me. I hugged them both at the same time. My girls were going away with their dad, without me, for the first time. I was going away without them for the first time since I’d had them too. I felt a tear welling up in the corner of my eye. Mallory looked at me. “We’ll take real good care of them, really we will,” she said as she hugged me. I hugged her back.
Phillip and Mallory have been together for two years. He had cheated on me with her, but we hadn’t been happy. I’d known for a long time he wasn’t the one but we’d planned to have a baby anyway. Foolish, I know, but neither of us were getting younger and we both saw children as being a part of our future. That baby had ended up being two babies. We made a go of it and it hadn’t worked. Our lack of love wasn’t Mallory’s fault. Her timing sucked but it wasn’t her fault. I felt like hitting myself for using another one of her words. Since when had I ever used the word sucked apart from in past tense when referring to how one consumed a popsicle? I blushed, there were other times. Anyway, moving on swiftly, I could slap myself again. It’s an ice-lolly. Why did the girls keep bringing these damn words home?
I watched as they all got in the car and buckled up. I waved to the girls. The car left the street and they were gone. A tear trickled down my face. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry and look at me now. I sobbed in the doorway, smearing all the make-up I’d spent ages applying. I closed the door and grabbed my phone from the side. What does a woman do when she’s sobbing her heart out like a baby? She calls her best friend and has a good natter. “Beverley, can you talk?” I said as I bawled down the phone.
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Meet me at Marmaris Castle.
Romantic comedy novella, ‘Meet me at Marmaris Castle,’ is now available on Amazon.
With the help of best friend Beverley, forty-five-year-old primary school teacher Annie Henderson, is hanging up her beloved cardigans and rediscovering her sexy inner-siren. Why? Because of a proposition made ten years ago. Jason’s words have never left her. ‘Meet me at Marmaris Castle, ten years from now, seven in the evening.’
As she battles with killer heels, bikini waxes and ill-fitting underwear, she toils with the doubts that swim through her head. ‘Will he turn up? If he does turn up, will he like me? Will I like him?’ After all, her only dream is for a happy ever after. Corny, yes – but it’s true. She wants her dream man, she wants him to fulfil all her desires and most of all she wants him to be the one. Is ten years too much of a gap though?
Meet me at Marmaris Castle is a romantic comedy full of mishap, awkwardness and severe problems with fashion.
Carla Kovach x