Scott and Rosalie’s living room spewed various colours, though pinks and blues made up majority of them. Balloons lined the perimeter of the house and, as if anyone were to questions the reason behind today’s celebrations, a huge banner housing the words ‘BABY SHOWER!’ hung elegantly above the fireplace. Every food imaginable was up for grabs and the gin was already going down a treat.
“Top up?” asked Lucy, gesturing towards my empty glass.
“Best not. It’s barely twelve O’clock.”
She smiled and sipped, certainly not deterred by my mention of how early it was. We’d arrived a few hours ago with Catherine and James to help decorate and deemed our hard work worthy of a drink. It didn’t matter that surrounding us were Rosalie’s esteemed family members. Lucy was adamant it was time for gin.
“Are you girls okay?” asked Lauren, Rosalie’s mum, checking in on us for the umpteenth time.
Until today, I had never met the woman and my God, was she a hoot. Her retelling of life stories were hilarious and the way she doted on her only daughter was incredibly lovely to watch. Her need to join us in cracking open the alcohol early also made her a friend in our eyes. She was nothing like her sister-in-law, who was a sophisticated little thing.
“Perfect. More gin?” tempted Lucy, holding up her glass.
“Oh, go on then,”
Just then, the rest of our usual crowd came filtering in, consisting of Spencer, Calvin, Sam and Bethany. They each carried more alcohol, prompting Rosalie’s Auntie to turn her nose up as such a sight.
“This is a baby shower for goodness sake! Not an excuse to get intoxicated.”
Lauren simply rolled her eyes and gulped more of her gin, as if to spite the woman.
“Relax, everyone! The party has officially arrived,” stated Sam, clearly not put off by the civilised bunch currently congregating in the corner. “Where do we set up the beer pong, Scott?”
He was clearly joking but that didn’t stop the snobby woman to my left from piping up.
“There will be no such game, young man. This is an afternoon tea party.”
“Oh, come on, Elizabeth. They want to have a little fun. Let them,” interrupted Lauren, shooting my Sam a sly wink.
The little minx!
“Perhaps I can interest you in a round?” goaded Sam, certainly not picking up on Elizabeth’s seriousness.
“Perhaps not,” she sassed, whilst walking away.
Sam mouthed a very exaggerated, ‘FIESTY’ and proceeded into the kitchen where he, along with everyone else dumped their drink.
“Spencer. My goodness! Is it possible for you to get any more good looking?” expressed Lauren, totally flirting with my man.
“Don’t feed his ego, sweetheart,” chided Craig, wrapping an arm around her curvy waist. “He’s already a cocky so-and-so.”
“I’m not surprised,” smirked Lauren, glancing to me. “With a girlfriend as beautiful as that. I can only imagine what your babies will look like. Bloody models!”
It was clear from the get-go that Lauren was from a different class to Craig and his family entirely. Born to a working-class family, she’d experienced a different upbringing to her spouse, though none of that seemed to matter as far as their love was concerned. Craig was laid back and seemed to enjoy his wife’s bold personality. The same could not be said for his sister–Elizabeth.
“Lauren, it’s been a while. How are you?” greeted Spencer, kissing her on each cheek with surprise precision.
“Very well, darling. I’d ask you the same but I’ve spent best part of my morning chatting to Jessica. My God, you’ve landed on your feet with this one, have you not?”
“I can’t disagree with you on that,” he replied, pulling me close and landing a kiss to my temple. “Makes me the happiest I’ve been, along with my little girl.”
Lauren’s eyes widened. “Oh, sweet Leila. She not here today?”
Spencer shook his head but kept his smile in place. “I’m afraid not. She’s with her mum today.”
Lauren offered us her smile, likely knowing the story behind our fight for custody. Most did. Though, unlike others, her smile was sincere.
“Perhaps I’ll catch her next time. She always was a handful, that one. Reminds me of her dad.”
“Tell me about it,” I imputed, lightly squeezing Spencer’s hip. “Try bloody living with it, Lauren.”
The four of us laughed, settling nicely into out established chat.
“Ladies and gentlemen…”
Elizabeth’s voiced flowed through the living room, demanding everyone’s attention. Once satisfied with the silence, she began her next instruction and did so with up most excitement.
“The first party game is about to begin!”
When Elizabeth had announced the start of party games, I’d imagine something a little less childish and more relevant to the theme of having babies. Pin the sperm on the egg, chocolate nappies…anything but this!
“Oh, will Jackie be our winner?” gushed Elizabeth, stopping the music once again.
“I fucking hope so,” whispered Sam, earning himself a jab to his ribs.
Bethany glared at him. “Babe, I know it’s not your idea of fun but for Rosalie’s sake, try to look like you’re enjoying yourself.”
He pretended to sulk due to his minor injuries but made a conscious effort at smiling his way through the remainder of the game. We all did. In the end, Gemma–Rosalie’s fifteen-year-old cousin–won, bringing an end to what could only be described as organised ‘fun’. Afterwards, we were told we had a twenty minute break until the next game would commence.
“Do you think I can get so intoxicated in the next twenty minutes that I don’t realise how shit the party games are?” asked Calvin, taking advantage of the fact that we were both alone in the kitchen.
“You can try.” I smiled, passing him a beer.
“Thanks.” He released it of its cap with seconds, gulping a good third of it in one go.
“Do you know someone called Mark Dawson?”
My question came out of the blue, perhaps born out of desperation. Spencer hadn’t heard of him but he wasn’t the only person who frequented at Red.
“No,” he replied, pulling the bottle away from his lips. “Spencer already asked me that. Who is he?”
“Just someone wanting to do business with the company,” I lied, feeding him the first excuse that came springing to mind.
“You’re lying to me. You both are,” he accused, narrowing his gaze. “This has Alister Branning written all over it.”
Spencer and I didn’t want to involve anyone else for fear of things getting too complicated but with Calvin and his quick eye, I was moments away from letting everything slip.
Rosalie’s interruption came as quite the relief.
“This is a disaster. My baby shower will forever be known as that time we all had to sit though pass-the-fucking-parcel.”
“Rosalie!” I scorned, glancing briefly to a shocked Calvin. “You just swore, You never swear.”
“Hormones!” she answered, growing red with rage. “You have to do something!”
“Yes, you. I can’t. They’re my family. What if I upset them?”
“What if I upset them?” I asked, shaking my head in disbelief.
Rosalie had nothing to say in response, but did flash me a pleading look. Her hands clasped together in front of her chest and her eyelashes, as long as they were, batted in innocent persuasion.
“Come on, Jessica. You’ve handled men in the boardroom. You can’t honestly expect us to believe auntie Elizabeth scares you,” mocked Calvin, sipping more from his beer.
“She terrifies me!” I informed, making Rosalie giggle. “But I’ll see what I can do.”
“You’re the best, thanks you!”
The three of us walked back into the living room where Elizabeth and her posse were setting up the next game of goodness knows what. A packet of post-it notes caught my eye and before anyone could stop me, I made a beeline for them.
“Hi, everyone. Can I grab your attention for a sec!”
The room went silent in an instant, bar the low sounds of Elizabeth’s judgemental scoffs.
“In my hand, I have some post-it notes. I thought it would be a nice idea if we all wrote a small message to the baby with the intention of him or her opening them on their eighteenth birthday.”
“Oh, what a lovely idea,” praised Catherine, grinning from ear to ear.
“Actually, we were just about to start another game,” announced Angela, sticking to the supposed itinerary.
Damn, this woman wouldn’t budge.
“Not to worry,” I smiled, “We can play that later. I’d like to get this one done first before the drink really starts taking hold.” I laughed, gaining nothing in return.
Elizabeth was not amused.
“Perhaps you should tell your friends to calm down on the drinking front then.”
Oh, for fucks sake.
“They’re Scott and Rosalie’s friends too and I think they’d both want them to enjoy themselves.” I smiled. “The effort you have put into these games is incredible, Elizabeth. It really shows your commitment to your niece. Let’s all try to loosen up and have a little fun. Let me take over for a while.”
Her huff said it all.
“I have two more planned after this one,” she snapped walking away. “I’ll give you five minutes.”
And that, she did. Not a moment more. When my five minutes were up, she requested everyone’s presence in the living room, fully prepared to start a new game of pass the parcel. Instantly, I cottoned on to Rosalie’s dilemma. She didn’t want the party to be boring for her friends but also didn’t want to upset her auntie.
“How about when the music stops on you, an item of clothing has to be removed!” I suggested, optimistic in my attempts.
Anything to make this game less dull.
“And you have to take a shot of your drink,” added Calvin, throwing a wink Rosalie’s way.
Elizabeth piped up from her position. “I’m not sure-”
“Yes!” cried Rosalie, interrupting. “That sounds like fun.”
I fought Elizabeth for the role of DJ and by the end of the game, had most of the men down to their just their trousers. The room was full of six packs and exposed muscles, certainly giving Rosalie’s younger cousins something to look at. Uncontrollable laugher could be heard throughout, making this the funniest/ dirtiest game of pass the parcel I’d ever encountered. Jenna–another one of Rosalie’s cousins in her late teens–ogled Spencer and giggled when another round of music made him pull of his final sock.
“Baby, for the sake of everyone in this room, do not stop the music on me again.”
“DO IT!” yelled Lauren, all in good fun.
To her right, Catherine burst out laughing and nudged her sternly. “That’s my son!” she laughed, certainly merry.
Elizabeth, to give credit where it was due, relaxed a little and giggled along with the others when Sam had undergone a rather dramatic strip tease when removing his shirt. Calvin had shredded his fair share of layers too and was currently three pieces of clothing away from being stark bollock naked.
“Oh, I’ve a feeling this is the last round,” I teased, riling up my audience. “Who will lose the last of their clothing?”
For the sake of fairness, I covered my eyes and pressed pause on the music, astounded to find none other than Scott holding the parcel. The bloke was already down to his underpants which meant…
“Oh, God,” cried Catherine, covering her eyes as he stood.
Rosalie whooped her delight, throwing her arms in the air like a woman possessed.
“Lose the boxers, Mr. Michaels!”
“Oh fucking hell,” laughed Calvin, pulling on his shirt. “We’re about to get a re-enactment of how she got pregnant in the first place.”
At this point, Scott had had a few and was feeling pretty confident because of it. He approached Rosalie with a dazzling smile, egged on by the many cat calls and enthusiastic whistles. Sam began a chant, “STIP!” and before I knew it, he dropped the lot, exposing himself to everyone.
“OH MY GOD!” screamed Rosalie, prompting the others to giggle and shriek. “This is the best baby shower ever!”
Spencer joined me over by the docking station, having only managed to put on his trousers. “You’ve made her day,” he stated, nuzzling into my neck.
“I think I’ve made everyone’s day. Four strapping, semi naked men. What’s not to like?”
He laughed against my skin, lightly dragging my earlobe through his teeth.
“Maybe we can have our own game of strip pass the parcel later on?”
His suggestion was interrupted when James snapped a picture of Scott and all his assets, sending roars of laughter throughout the room.
“I think that’s an excellent idea, Mr. Michaels.
His smirk was insufferable and as I matched it with a firm squeeze of his waist, a thought occurred to me that made me internally laugh.
God bless Elizabeth and her game of pass the parcel.