Blah, blah, blah. That is the stimulating conversation Anna my half-sister from dads first marriage and Alice are having. Babies this and babies that, you would think they have nothing else to talk about. That kind of women bug the hell out of me; they have children and talk about nothing else other than little Jimmy and how he farted in the bath and how hilarious it was. You would have to be there to see the comedy in it, I’m sure. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being proud of your offspring by any means but when in the company of other adults I’m pretty sure they can find more exciting things to talk about than their child blowing a raspberry in the bath. Just wait to you have one is always the retort you get. I always feel like saying I may not be a member of the mummy brigade, but if I ever am, I’ll be damned if I turn into a jibbering idiot with only one topic for conversation. To this copious amounts of eye-rolling would ensue and I would be made feel like the wicked witch of the west, so usually I say nothing. I’m getting disapproving looks from both of them concerning my rapid consumption of gin before we’ve even eaten lunch. Anna’s lecturing me about it being a little early in the day for alcohol. It’s never too early for drinking, especially when I’m having to deal with the prenatal chatter of a demented mother to be. Nothing can drive you to the solace of a glass of gin quicker. My phone rings, thankfully; I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. I excuse myself and head towards the bar extracting my phone from my pocket; it’s Joey he decided to work no doubt to escape the growing tension at the Abbey. I was rather glad when Anna arrived and suggested we go for lunch. Was surprised when Alice showed up too, I guess she can’t say no to Anna either.
“We have a problem.” He says in a rather ominous tone, not the words I want to hear at this precise moment in time. We are already several weeks behind schedule on the project, he, Pearse and I are currently working on. We’re opening a nightclub/wine bar together. To date, we’ve had a plethora of problems ranging from faulty building materials to not finding the right tradesman, makes me wonder why we’re even bothering.
“Another one or is it in regards to the pile of problems we already have?” I ask signalling to the barman to come over so I can order a drink, “Brandy, neat.” I say I’m going to need something a little stronger than a gin and tonic before I hear the latest of our problems.
“Well, it’s.” He pauses, is it that bad that he’s hesitating to tell me, Joey isn’t usually one for beating around the bush. “Well, it’s.” Another nerve grating pause.
“Yes, what?” I snap I’ve spent the last half hour listening to verbal diarrhoea spewing from both my sister's lips I can’t take any more of his procrastinating.
“The women’s league are staging a protest outside the gate.” I just happened to be taking a mouthful of brandy as he says this and almost choke from bursting out laughing. So the good ladies of the Parkgate women’s league are at it again, they staged several protests during the construction of Dionysus, the second nightclub I opened a few years back. You see according to them a sinners paradise was being unleashed on the good god-fearing people of Parkgate and I was satan himself, albeit in a business suit.
“Oh, I see!” I reply rather casually; I don’t think he was expecting such a calm reaction. They protest everything that isn’t church-related; even the new leisure centre was in some way unscriptural. “What exactly are they doing?” I ask taking a sip from my glass, don’t those women have anything better to do with their time. The simple answer to that is no, no; they do not; most of them have wealthy husbands and have never worked a single day in their lives.
“Singing.” He replies rather quietly; I have to bite my lip not to burst out laughing, he’s never had to deal with the women’s league before and thinks they merit an actual problem. “Now they are handing out pamphlets.” This time I can’t contain my laugh, “It’s not funny, Olivia.”
“They’re harmless Red just ignore them, and they’ll go away.” For the most part, they are just a nuisance, yes it would be much easier if they weren’t there but going from my previous encounters with them they never really cause any actual problems.
“If you say so.”
“I do say so, anything else?” I ask hoping there is some reason any reason at all not to have to go back to listening to the mind-numbing conversation between Anna and Alice.
“Nope, that’s all.”
“Oh.” I reply with an audible disappointment.
“Have fun.” He says hanging up, bastard I say to myself as I put the phone back in my pocket, reluctantly I return to the table.
“Anything wrong?” Anna asks.
“Just the women’s league having nothing better to do than protest.”
“Ah, Esther has wanted to join them for years but has had zero luck getting in.” Anna comments, taking a sip from her glass of water.
“I thought her piety would be right up their alley.” They’ve just gone up a little in my estimation knowing they refuse to welcome Esther among their ranks. As I am inwardly gloating, not the most mature thing to be doing, I know, I notice they are both looking at me as though I should have made a reply. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what I’m supposed to be replying to I haven’t exactly been listening. It’s more of a case of dipping in and out of the conversation at acceptable intervals, nodding my head and trying not to look at them too vaguely. Too bad this time they were expecting something more than an uh-huh or a nod. “Sorry, what was that?” I ask, Anna sighs and Alice rolls her eyes, I know it’s rude not to pay attention but come on they could have changed the subject for at least five minutes.
“Is Ryan coming tomorrow?” Anna asks as she shovels a forkful of steak and vegetables into her mouth. Ryan my sort-of boyfriend of 3 months, we met at one of my older brother Simon and August’s rugby matches, he plays fly-half and is rather good at it, I’ll be honest though he’s not a keeper.
“Yes, I asked him.” Alice snickers and says,
“That should be fun with Joey and Pearse there.” I never thought of that it could become slightly awkward with all three of them there and that’s all I would need fisty cuffs at Eric’s bloody wedding.
“Thank you! Alice, can you two go back to your preferred topic of tiny humans.” Anna laughs and shakes her head.
“Is something annoying you Olivia, you don’t seem to want to be here?”
“Maybe that’s because I don’t want to be here Anna if it means listening to you two babbling on about babies for the rest of the afternoon,” I reply, my threshold of tolerance long since passed. I can understand Anna’s jabbering on about being pregnant she’s soon to have her first child, but Alice’s sudden interest in everything baby is rather odd. I’ve given up trying to figure her out. We go back to eating quietly this time none of us saying much until Anna out of the blue says.
“I’m leaving Mike.” Mike is her arsehole husband who if I am completely honest none of us can stand. I almost choke on my steak, I can’t quite believe my ears, did she say what I think she said. Alice’s reaction is priceless; she had been in the process of shovelling yet another forkful of chicken pasta into her mouth when the bombshell was dropped. Her bottom jaw drops automatically, her fork clinks down on the side of the white pasta bowl tortellini flying in all directions. We sit gawping at each other for I have no idea how long; Anna sitting with a satisfied look on her face. Didn’t see that one coming did you; I would say is what she is going through her mind.
“Why?” Alice asks bitch she got there before I did.
“He doesn’t want the baby.”
“Why wouldn’t he want his child?” She asks he’s an arsehole that’s why is my first thought. “What are you going to do?”
“What do you mean, what is she going to do Alice? Divorce the bastard, what do you think.” I quickly interject, what else would she do, she should never have married him in the first place.
“I haven’t even left him yet, Olivia.”
“Yes but you are planning on divorcing him.” For a sinking moment, I get the feeling she won’t even leave him, this spur of the moment decision is just that, she will go back to him and be treated like she always has been.
“I don’t know Olivia; I’ve only just decided to leave him; divorce is the last thing on my mind.”
“Why else would you be leaving him, Anna, he doesn’t want his child how would that even work?” His bags would have been packed and left on the doorstep if it were me and he’d told me he didn’t want our child. “You’re not gonna change your mind are you?” Yeah, it’s not going to happen, the one wise decision she has made since meeting him, and she's going to go back on it.
“I’m not an idiot Olivia.”
“You did marry Mike.” I reply rather snidely, that was below the belt even for me.
“You’ve never liked him, have you?”
“No I haven’t, you are far too good for him Anna, he’s a loser, he hits you…”
“Wait a minute; Mike hit you?” An astonished Alice comments.
“Yes he did, but he was sorry for it, it was a mistake.” Yeah right like they all don't say that.
“He makes a lot of mistakes it would seem.” I say beginning to get exasperated by her justification of his actions.
“Oli’s right, Anna, get rid of him.” What Alice agreeing with me that has got to be a first.
“Where are you for living?” I ask extracting my phone from my pocket.
“I hadn’t thought.” She replies a little flustered.
“Well think Anna, I need to know where to tell Joel and the boys to take your stuff to.” My finger poised, ready to press the call button to get Joel, my chauffeur/general handyman to pick her belongings up. “Where to?”
“I don’t know Olivia; I need time to think.”
“Yeah think your way back into a crap marriage.”
“And if I did it would be my decision.”
“So that’s what you want for the baby, Mike beating you up when he gets drunk.”
“Of course not.”
“Well that’s what he’ll get, so you make up your mind is it Mike or that baby you want.” I say the rest of lunch goes by in relative silence. I hope she will stick to the decision she has made.
After lunch, Anna feels tired, so we leave her back to the Abbey, Alice and I still have to pick wedding presents up. Dear Eric and Beatrice have a rather long list of gifts at the most expensive shop in Parkgate. I choose the cheapest gift left on the list, and it still costs me £500, an ugly painting I wouldn’t even hang in the toilet. Alice is left having to buy a tea service with little ballerinas painted on it costing twice the nasty painting, guess that’s the price you pay for waiting to the last minute.
“It pains me to pay that much for a gift for those two.” Alice complains as we browse the rest of the shop while the shop clerk wraps the gifts for us.
“Alice considering the cheapest thing on the list was £300, and we left it until the day before their wedding we’re lucky some other idiots decided to buy the most expensive gifts and leave us with these two gems. Silver linings and all that.” I say picking up a figurine of two naked lovers intertwined; immediately I get the urge to buy it and give it to Esther as a mother of the groom gift, I smirk.
“What are you smirking at?” Alice asks I flash her a who me I’m smirking at nothing look. “Olivia, whatever you are thinking don’t do it, not after this morning.” Her comment annoys me, in a split second, my decision is made. I take the figurine to the counter and ask for it to be wrapped and labelled To Esther Love ??. The clerk looks at me with a quizzical expression; I smile and pay for it. Alice is dismayed by my impetuousness. Leaving the shop in complete silence, we head back to the Abbey. Alice remains silent the entire drive back making it somewhat awkward.
“You're worse than the rest of them.” Alice finally says as we pull into the courtyard. Getting out of the car, she retrieves her gift from the boot and silently walks away.
“Alicia,” I say after her she doesn’t turn around, nor does she acknowledge me.