“Oh my god!” An all too familiar morning after the night before lament emanates from somewhere in the room. “My head is going to explode. I’m never drinking another drop of brandy in my life again.” He vows, I drag myself up from the sofa to see Pearse sitting crouched on the floor holding his head in his hands.
Rubbing the top of his head, I say. “There, there sweetie.” What had we done all I can remember is that we consumed the contents of four, maybe five bottles of wine, possibly vintage wine. Dad is going to kill us to top it off. I think there was a whole bottle of brandy; it’s a miracle we’re still alive.
“Livi my head is going to go bang. I feel like a herd of elephants has stampeded me.” He winces, even the effort of talking looks like it is causing him pain.
Hugging him, I reply, “You’ll be ok.” He flinches, jeepers he is in a bad way when a hug physically hurts you know things are in a bad way. “Sorry, maybe we should crawl back to the surface again.” This suggestion goes down as well as a greasy fry up would right now, not at all. Clicking on the kettle, I’m hoping a cup of tea might cleanse the system a bit.
“And what Livi, explain how we’ve come to spend the entire night in the cellar, and my suit smells like a drunk has taken up residence in it.” He replies, easing himself up onto the sofa with the greatest of effort.
“Well, they have. You do look like shit; I have to say I’ve seen you look better.”
“Oh thank you, but somehow you manage to look as good as ever, how is that possible.” I make no reply anything I would say would sound conceited. From behind a floor to ceiling wine rack Joey appears looking like a beautiful zombie. His bow tie hanging loose, shirt unbuttoned halfway, hair tousled, a half-drunk bottle of brandy in his hand.
“What happened last night?” He asks plopping down on the sofa beside Pearse, how the hell am I supposed to know any more than him my head is just as blurry as his.
“I don’t know, after a certain point, nothing but blankness.”
“Where did whatshisname go?” Joey asks regarding Ryan; I shrug my shoulders, an admittance of not knowing, he inquires no further. “So did we do anything stupid?” A look of shame on his face, asking if we did something stupid is like asking if we drank too much, of course, we did. For some reason, I can’t shake the feeling that something that shouldn’t have happened did, and someone got upset about it. Who I don’t know or what for that matter. It won’t be long before I find out if something did happen or if I’m suffering from the ill effects of a family wedding. Drinking our tea, the best cup ever, no lie, it hit the spot taking that horrible parched feeling from my mouth.
“You mean did you make an arse of yourself in front of everyone.” He scowls at my matter of fact way of summing the situation up. Well, I don’t see the point in sugar-coating it you are only deluding yourself if you do.
“Well yes, I suppose that’s what I mean, did I?” He implores with a look that says, please say no. He’s worried that he’s embarrassed his mother in public that now in the cold light of day will live to regret. You see Ria Peters wields an iron fist with all the men in her life, quite funny actually to see her boss Joey’s dad around he’s well over six feet tall and built like a brick outhouse.
“No, not that I remember, but I’m not the most reliable of sources as to what happened from a certain point yesterday.”
“It’s Sunday, right?” Joey asks refilling his cup of tea, what kind of a stupid question is that of course, it’s Sunday. I think, or at least it should be if yesterday was Saturday which I’m pretty sure it was, logically it has to be Sunday there is no other day it can be. Getting agitated at such a stupid question, I snap.
“Yes, why?” Pearse grimaces at the sound of my raised voice probably ringing through his tiny brain like the bells of Notre Dame. Patting him on the head, I say “Sorry.”
“I just get a feeling I should be somewhere, but I’m not sure.” Well duh, we should all be somewhere other than dads wine cellar nursing the mother of all hangovers.
“Why don’t we just go upstairs and find out we can’t stay down here forever.” As much as I would like to stay here and not have to face the inevitable backlash, we have no other choice than to bite the bullet.
“You want to bet.” Pearse comments feebly, head resting on his knees.
“Come on be a man; we haven’t done anything to be ashamed of, apart from you ruining a good Armani suit and drinking too much. Considering we are all fully clothed, it’s safe to assume none of us did something stupid like a striptease in front of the entire family.”
“She has a point.” Joey says from halfway up the stairs he has the same flippant attitude about such things as me until his mother is involved and then he turns into a spineless wimp. It’s funny how both of their mothers have such a power over them; it’s the same with Simon and August, mum snaps her fingers, and they jump to attention.
“You know I can’t, Olivia; I’m like a worm I’m spineless.” Bless him it’s true never has been able to stand up for himself, I remember beating two boys up who were bullying him when we were at primary school. Helping him out of the sofa and over to the staircase, I say.
“I know sweetie.” Joey opens the door to a shocked scream from Mrs Brown, the head housekeeper. She wasn’t expecting the living dead to emerge from the cellar and shock the hell out of her.
“Glory be, what are you doing in the cellar?” She asks, looking at us reproachfully. Mrs Brown practically raised us; she was the one who served us dinner when we had been banished to the kitchen due to some dinner party or other.
“Umm! I’ll be honest with you Mrs B, I or should I say we were sleeping off a nasty hangover from Eric’s wedding yesterday.”
“It must have been some hangover for your brother was married on Saturday.”
“Yes, that was yesterday.” I reply thinking Mrs Brown is getting a little senile not knowing Sunday follows Saturday. I close the cellar door, and we sit down at the kitchen table.
“No, it wasn’t.” She says, shaking her head as she automatically switches on the kettle. “Strong coffee is for the three of you.” My childhood would have been hell if it hadn’t been for her, she was both mother and father to us Joey included. He spent more time here than he did in his own home being an only child rattling around in a large house was just too much for him to take he preferred the insanity that was the Abbey.
“Then what day is it today Mrs Brown?” Joey asks.
“Why Joseph its Monday.”
“Monday, how can that be possible, we’ve missed an entire day?” Bloody hell this is a new one we’ve never missed an entire day before. Baffling that no-one missed us, then again it’s only one day and the day after a wedding too no-one could probably see straight before noon yesterday.
Shrugging, I say, “Looks like it.” Another one to strike off the list, obtain such a level of drunkenness that an entire day and night pass and you see neither. We made a stupid list when we were 21 and as insane as it may sound the list is almost complete. Then again we have been working on its completion for sixteen years, a job well done I would say. “You won’t tell anyone about this Mrs Brown; you know what they’re like?”
“It’s none of their business, but if I’m asked I know nothing.” She says setting the cups of coffee down on the table.
Kissing her on the cheek, I say, “Thank you. Here sit down I’ll make you some tea.”
“But I have messages to do for Mrs de Winter.” She protests as I make her sit down, that shit can wait I think it’s time someone spoiled her rather than her always spoiling us.
“Can’t the old bag do her own fucking messages?” I snarl.
“Watch your language.” Mrs B abhors cursing.
“Sorry,” I say as I prepare a pot of tea, poking about in the cupboards looking for some biscuits. All I can find are sugar-free, fat-free, taste-free pieces of cardboard; fuck doesn’t this woman know how to live at all. Not a single chocolate bar stashed in the back of the cupboard or anything I’d die if I had to live like this. Mrs Brown gets up from her seat and swiftly extracts a delicious looking bar of chocolate disguised as a tin of beans. I kiss her again.
“You angel.” I say as she hands us each a generous portion and finally sits down herself. We sit silently as we consume the chocolate like ravenous animals then again we haven’t eaten anything in over a day. The chocolate melting in my mouth is heavenly mixed with the hot sweet coffee mmmmm.
“So where is everyone?” Joey asks still stuffing his face with chocolate, greedy pig, true the place is awful quiet no Esther or vile half-siblings or dad. I'm glad no-one is here alleviates the necessity to explain anything.
“At work or school wherever they should be. Good cuppa tea.” She comments that is indeed a compliment coming from Mrs Brown she’s very fussy about her tea. Smiling, I say.
“Oh yes, that young man rang looking for you yesterday.” Joey and Pearse simultaneously roll their eyes. Wonder what he wanted, more to the point why would he ring dads and not my mobile. Extracting it from my cleavage, I notice it is switched off. When did I do that, switching it back on I see I have several missed calls all from Ryan, oops.
“What did he want?”
“Was wondering if you’d stayed over, he’d been over to your house, and no-one was about, and you didn’t answer your phone, so he assumed you were here.”
“I see.” Great what a way to start the week off Mondays are bad enough without having to deal with him and his whining. So needy and clingy always wanting attention like he is the centre of the universe.
“Aren’t you going to call him?” Mrs Brown asks, the other two look at me expectantly, hell no I’m not calling him I can't deal with that right now. I shake my head and change the subject. We sit chatting about everything and nothing until Mrs Brown looks at the clock and begins to panic about getting Esther’s messages done in time before she gets back from wherever it is she spends her days. Stacking our dirty dishes in the dishwasher, I say.
“We won’t be here when you get back Mrs B places to go people to see.”
“More like work to go to.” Joey comments, licking the melted chocolate off his fingers. Oh, I wouldn’t mind doing that for him, behave dirty mind looking away from him I finish loading the dishes into the dishwasher.
“Ever the party pooper, can’t you take today off?” Trying to persuade him, a confessed workaholic, to take the day off, like that was going to happen.
“No, I can’t I have interviews to conduct, besides what else would we do?” Go to lunch, see a show, go shopping, do anything other than the nine to five. We spend Monday to Friday chained to a desk or whatever it is we do leaving precious little time for ourselves.
“Anything, I don’t feel like working today.” I don’t feel like dealing with all the hassles of running three nightclubs well two we’re in the process of renovating the third it’s such a headache, and I don’t need to make it any worse than it already is. Pearse has fallen asleep head resting on the table drool dripping from one side of his mouth, the poor thing no way he is fit for work today.
“What are you trying to avoid doing?” He asks in that ever annoying way he has of sounding like your boss.
“I don’t avoid things Joey they avoid me.”
“Why are you, Don de Winter?”
Pointing at sleeping beauty snoring his head off, I say. “Yes that’s me; anyway we need to get him out of that vomit soaked suit and back into the land of the living.”
“We what’s this we he’s your stepbrother, not mine. Some of us have real work to do.”
“What are you implying by that?”
“What do you suppose I might be implying?”
Sticking my tongue out at him, I say, “Pig.”
“Socialite.” He replies we burst out laughing, which wakens sleeping beauty he looks up bleary-eyed grunts something inaudible before slumping back on the table again. God, what am I going to do with him, hmm I’ll call Joel my chauffeur he can come pick us up.