Hello, my darlings,
It’s a bank holiday here in the UK, so I’m a leeeeeetle bit late with the Ludlow Hall sneak peek.
Here’s Rosie and Bronte doing what they do best:
Their baby girls sound asleep in their strollers, Bronte and Rosie are having a girlfriend lunch at Café Roma in the ancient market town of Old Ludlow . . .
*Rosie’s not a happy bunny. Wearing a face like a smacked arse, she’s pushing a limp lettuce leaf around her plate. When she heaves yet another deep sigh, Bronte tries hard not to laugh*
Bronte’s digging into a big juicy steak and fries and shoves the pail of crispy fries drenched in salt and mayo towards Rosie. “Stop making a face. Go on, have one. You know you want to. What’s the point of depriving yourself of all your favorite food groups if it makes you a miserable cow?”
Rosie’s gaze lingers longingly on the crispy fries with their fluffy centre. They smell amazing. Her mouth waters to taste one, just one. The fries whisper in an evil voice, ‘eat me, eat me’ in her ear. But she refuses to give in to temptation. Her eyes click to her best friend. Her skinny best friend. Her best friend who can eat whatever the hell she likes (even chocolate) and nothing sticks to her skinny ass. Her tight skinny ass. An ass that has delivered not one, not two, but THREE children. To be fair, the twins were delivered by C-section, but still . . .
“It’s not fair,” Rosie whines. “I love breastfeeding my baby girl to bits, you know I do. But Mila ate my boobs. They’re gone, baby, gone. For six short months I had a wondrous cleavage to be proud of. Awesome breasts. And now look at them.” She tugs her neck of her T-shirt to peer down. “They’re like deflated balloons. All empty skin. The fat’s gone to my ass and hips. It’s not fair.”
Her BBF does such a huge eye roll Rosie’s surprised she doesn’t give herself a migraine. So much for sisterly solidarity, eh? It’s okay for HER, she’d look amazing in a black bin bag. Not that she’s ever seen Bronte in a black bin bag, but that’s not the point, is it?
“For goodness sake stop that horrible whine,” Bronte says in a chirpy voice that does Rosie’s head in. “Breast feeding, if a woman can manage it and you have, is a wonderful thing for the mother and baby. Look at your belly, it’s flat and tight. And look at Mila, she looks plump and healthy and all on mother’s milk. You should be proud of yourself. And drink up your water, it’s good for milk making.”
Chewing on a sliver of red pepper, Rosie recognises a pep talk when she hears one. She’s not having it. “I smell of baby milk. She’s like a parasite sucking all the good stuff out of me, and leaving the crap on my ass and hips behind. My hair’s still falling out, too.”
Bronte pops another fry in her mouth, eyes Rosie’s riot of glossy curls, shakes her head. “You’ve gorgeous hair and plenty of it. What the hell is the matter with you today? Are you sleep deprived?”
“Nope. Mila’s sleeping through the night these days. She’s a frigging angel sent from heaven. I probably get too much sleep,” Rosie says in a pitiful little voice.
A voice that makes her BBF sit up and take notice. Bronte tops up their water glasses from the jug on the table. “Okay, what’s up, Buttercup?”
“There’s something going on with Alexander,” Rosie whispers.
Bronte’s eyes grow big and wide. “What’s my brother done?”
Rosie tends not to talk about her husband to his sister behind his back. It might have something to do with the marriage rules her mother drummed into her head, with loyalty to her spouse being very near the top. But if she doesn’t unburden herself, she’ll explode. “He didn’t kiss me goodbye this morning. No hug. No nuthin.”
Bronte blinks. “That doesn’t sound like him.”
“I know. Usually he can’t keep his hands off me.” The sting of tears prickle in Rosie’s throat. She sniffs. “Thing is, last night at least twice I caught him on his phone and he switched it off really fast, like he doesn’t want me to hear or see what he’s doing.” Now the prickle is stinging behind her eyes.
Again Bronte sends her wide eyes, and an even bigger smile. “Probably work. You know what Nico and him are like, they never switch off.”
“Yeah, but usually Alexander’s pretty open about pressure of work. I’m telling you he’s up to something. I know it. I can smell it. He’s gone off me. Probably because having a baby has wrecked my ass. I worked really hard for that toned butt,” Rosie says miserably. Then another thought hit her. “And have you seen the blonde dolly on reception at Ludlow Hall?”
Bronte shakes her head. “She’s a student. You’re being ridiculous, my brother adores the ground you walk on.”
“Not recently,” Rosie mutters.
“Anything else bothering you?” Bronte asks.
*Actually there was something else, but Rosie would rather have her tongue cut out with a rusty knife than say so. They’ve been best friends since they were three, and not once has Bronte ever forgot Rosie’s birthday. NEVER. Until today that is . . . Well, her BBF has the kids, Nico and Sweet Sensations to look after. Maybe now they’re all grown up birthdays shouldn’t matter so much? Maybe the hurt and upset she’s feeling is truly pathetic? Maybe she needs to get a frigging life? After all look, she should be counting her blessings. She has a longed for baby girl and a man who loves her. At least he did until this morning, and obviously HE forgot it was a special day for her, too*
Biting down hard on her bottom lip, Bronte stands. “Ready to go?”
Rosie shrugs, lunch with the eternally skinny Bronte has not been fun. “Sure.”
*The girls buckle the baby seats securely in Bronte’s car, fold the strollers into the trunk, and then take their seats. But as they drive out of town Bronte doesn’t head for home, instead she takes the turning to Ludlow Hall*
Rosie turns to her, frowns. “Where are we going?”
“I want to check on Sophia and Luca. They’re having a play date in the kiddy party area next to the Spa. Won’t take a minute.”
“Sure.” Rosie shrugs miserably, stares unseeing out the window at the passing glory of acres of grass, the meandering river Ludlow, and the forests and hills beyond.
*The girls carry their daughters into Ludlow Hall*
Bronte leads the way past the Spa and into a function room. When she shoves Rosie through the door before her, there is a crowd of people lurking there who all roar, “SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROSIE!”
Rosie’s jaw hits the floor because standing before her are all her family and friends. Her parents have flown over from their retirement home in Cyprus. Jacob and Gabriella Del Garda are laughing at the shock on her face. Sophia and Luca and Tonio are all dressed to the nines and carrying cards and gift bags as they run to hug their favorite auntie.
Rosie turns to a crying with laughter Bronte Ferranti, and narrows her eyes. “You shit!”
Bronte grabs Mila, gives Rosie a smacking kiss. “God, your face. Best laugh, evah!”
And then there was Alexander, his arms filled with fresh flowers, and his emerald eyes dancing with wicked laughter. Oh, man, she was so gonna kick his very fine ass.
“Hey, baby,” he whispers in her ear. She shut her eyes to inhale the delicious scent of her man “Happy Birthday. Gimme a kiss.”
Ah, birthdays are wonderful things.