Happy Saturday, dear readers,
Here’s this week’s sneak peek, grab a coffee, and enjoy!
The Dower House….
Bronte’s chilling out with her girlfriends; Janine Faulkner and her toddler, Boo, Rosie Ludlow and baby Mila, and Grace, Emily’s mummy.
Grace, her wildly curly hair recently cropped, a style that took years off her, wore navy skinny jeans and a lilac cashmere sweater the exact color of her eyes. She accepted a cup of coffee from Bronte, and studied the tiny mini-muffins served on a white china plate with a greedy eye. “I’d have paid good money to see Sophia talking to ‘Alexa’ and ordering all those gifts.”
Bronte, dressed in black leggings and one of Nico’s pale grey cotton hoodies, offered Janine a top up of her cup, and grinned down a Boo who sat on the floor and was terribly busy with her mummy’s iPhone. The little girl wore thick wool tights the color of milky coffee, and a cute sweater dress of leopard print velvet, and had a cream velvet ribbon in her black curls. She was sooooo cute.
“Thing is,” Bronte said. “According to Miss Brown, she reckons Sophia has an Eidetic memory. She can recall exact words in conversations. However, Nico reckons it could have been worse. She could’ve bought presents on Amazon for all her friends and their families. After the kids went to bed, all thrilled and delighted, Nico couldn’t stop laughing. We’ve no idea what to do with that child.”
Rosie, wearing thermal tights and a matching oversized polo neck sweater the color of ripe cranberries just grinned at Bronte. “You’ve been saying that for six years. And my favorite niece didn’t buy her favorite auntie anything either.” She sipped her coffee and at the same time managed to grab a pen Mila had taken from her bag and was about to stick up her nose. “No, baby doll. No. No. Not up noses, or in ears.”
Grace bent down to lift a grumpy Mila, handed her teaspoon to play with and gave her a cuddle. “I love this age. I’m so jealous, Rosie.”
“Have you thought of adoption?”
“We have,” Grace sighed, and dropped a kiss on Mila’s dark curls. “We’ve done nothing about it. It seems a very complex business.”
Janine nodded in agreement. “There are so many little kids desperate for a good home. They break my heart, they really do. Josh and I have been discussing adoption.”
Bronte raised her brows. “That would be amazing. Josh makes a great daddy.”
“Yep,” Janine said. “The only trouble is, we’d need to get married.”
Rosie gazed at her in amazement. “You don’t wanna marry Josh?”
Janine’s grin was a little wicked. “In a heartbeat. He hasn’t asked me yet.”
Rosie gave her an are-you-kidding-me look. “That’s a load of crock. I know for a fact he’s asked you at least ten times.”
“True. But that was way back in the beginning. He hasn’t asked me recently.”
“Maybe that’s because he’s not a mind reader,” Bronte said. “How’s the poor guy supposed to know you’ve changed your mind?”
“Truth. Is it bad of me that I want him to ask me again?”
“Nah,” Rosie said, and popped a dark chocolate mini muffin in her mouth. “You’re allowed. But you may need to drop him a couple of hints. You know, men are not exactly switched on to our feminine needs. Or should I make that our feminine wiles?”
Once the laughter stopped Bronte just shook her head.
“That’s crazy talk. We’re not being fair to them. The point is, the guys would do anything for us—anything. Hang on a minute,” she said.
Her friends watched in amazement as she shifted to check behind the couch, then tiptoed to the laundry room, opened the door to look inside, and the then tiptoed to the door leading to the hallway which was ajar. She checked behind it before she closed it. Grinning at the bemused look on their faces, she returned to her seat picked up a coffee. “Can’t be too careful in this house. The walls have ears. Ears commonly known as Sophia.”
Rosie couldn’t help but grin. “That girl’s going to turn your hair grey.”
Bronte made a face. “You can’t tell, but beneath this blonde there’s plenty of grey.”
“Well.” Rosie made herself more comfortable on the couch. “You’ve had at least four days where everything’s been peace, quiet and tranquillity. We all know that won’t last. I think she’s wonderful.”
Bronte just sent her a dark look. “It’s okay for you. You’re not her mother and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Wanna know the thing that bugs me the most about half-bloody-term? I want to be the best mummy in the whole wide world, and provide my kids with wonderful memories of childhood they’ll treasure forever.
“Instead, by lunchtime everyday I’m snapping their heads off because they can’t have more sweets or soda that send them up the wall and fighting like cats. Then I’m a ‘bad mummy’ for daring to suggest that if they’re bored they could—wait for the shock-horror—go to their room and read a book. You’d think I’d suggested sending them down a coal mine armed with a toothpick. I swear I cannot wait for Monday morning and a little bit of that peace, quiet and tranquillity you mention, Rosie.”
“Where are the gruesome twosome anyway,” asked a laughing Janine, referring to Sophia and Emily.
Grace lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “They’ve been in the dressing up box. The last time I looked they were dancing to Justin Timberlake on a loop.
“Sounds harmless enough,” Janine muttered.
Actually, Sophia and Emily were in a place strictly forbidden to both—Bronte’s dressing room. They’d painted their faces with Sophia’s kiddy makeup (the gift that kept on giving from auntie Rosie). And once Sophia had mentioned that her mama had a fire engine red lipstick that would look sooooo cooooool with Emily’s charcoal grey eye shadow, there had been nothing for it but to test the colour….
The girls looked like—thanks to the kiddy makeup—demented fairies complete with huge wings of pink gauze and chicken wire (made by the very talented auntie Janine.)
“We mustn’t make a mess,” Sophia whispered to a terribly excited Emily who’s blue eyes were like saucers as she took in the amazing pots and potions lined up in the narrow drawer Sophia had pulled out. The scented drawer liner smelled of lavender. The wall mirror had lots of light bulbs that illuminated their little faces.
Emily leaned in closer to inspect her skin. “I hate my freckles and my stupid hair.”
Sophia, genuinely shocked by this statement because she was secretly quite jealous of those gorgeous flaming ringlets, gazed wide-eyed in the mirror at her bestest friend.
“I LOVE your hair. Papa says you have fairy hair and a beautiful little fairy face. And as my auntie Rosie says, he was a stud before he married my mama, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to women.”
Emily blinked. “What’s a stud?”
Sophia, by this time carefully searching through the gold metal tubes of lipstick to find the right one, shrugged. “Dunno. Women always stare with stupid googly eyes at my papa. I think it’s rude. But auntie Rosie says he doesn’t notice them because he’s a lovely guy who’s crazy in love with my mama.”
Emily nodded her head so hard her ringlets danced around her shoulders. “I’m gonna marry Tonio.” Then she sent a viciously dark look to her reflection. “But he’ll never marry me with this horrible hair.”
Sophia halted her search for the lippy, and turned to face her best friend.
She took Emily by the shoulders. “Look into my eyes.”
Emily stared unblinking into Sophia’s eyes.
“I LOVE your hair. Can you see the truth in my eyes?”
Emily, totally serious, nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“Then believe me when I say your hair is amazing.” Sophia returned to the hunt for the lipstick, by this time she had lined up at least six opened tubes all standing like soldiers on parade. “I don’t know what’s the problem with your hair.”
Emily, unmoved by her best friend’s words, resumed a slitty eyed study of her face and hair in the mirror. “When she washes it, Mummy uses a tangle teaser and spray on conditioner. But it always hurts when she combs it and I cry and it’s one big drama. Then she got her hair cut. My daddy just loves it. He tells her every single day. I think I should cut mine.”
“Don’t be daft,” Sophia said, and then found what she was looking for. She held up the lipstick. “Turn around and open your mouth.”
Emily turned to her pal and opened her mouth wide.
With great care, Sophia swiped the lipstick over Emily’s little lips.
“Rub your lips together,” she said.
Emily did as she was told.
Sophia stood back and studied her work with a critical eye. “I like it. What do you think?”
Emily considered her reflection, fluttered her eyelashes like a camel in a sandstorm.
“It makes my eyes pop, doesn’t it?”
With great care, Sophia wound back the lipstick and replaced the top.
Then she danced on the spot. “Need to pee. Don’t touch ANYTHING or mama will kill us and bury us in the vegetable garden.”
Emily’s wide-eyed response was another rapid nod of her head.
After Sophia raced out the door, she took a careful study of all the lovely things on the table top.
Then, she blinked.
And almost of its own volition, her little hand hovered over a pair of scissors.
Three minutes later, Sophia stood rooted to the spot at the door to her mama’s dressing room. Her stifled cry caught the attention of her brothers strolling down the hallway.
Tonio and Luca entered Bronte and Nico’s bedroom and peered over Sophia’s shoulder.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” Luca reminded her.
For once, she was too stunned to rise to the bait.
“What’s the matter?” asked Tonio.
Then both boys looked into the dressing room, and gasped too.
“Well, what do you think?” asked a beyond thrilled and shorn Emily as she did a twirl.
“Omigod,” Sophia whispered, staring with bug-eyed disbelief at the appalling change in her best friend. “Omigod.”
Tonio stepped slowly inside the dressing room, and, his eyes riveted on the red glossy curls spilled on the cream carpet, picked up some with a hand that wasn’t quite steady.
He lifted his head to stare at her. “Dio mio, Emily. What have you done?”
By the way everyone stared at her, in absolute horror, it had begun to dawn on Emily that she may have made a big mistake.
Her fire engine red bottom lip trembled.
Her charcoal lined blue eyes filled.
Her belly hurt.
“Don’t you like it?” she whispered.
Tonio again stared at the curls in his hand, and then at her head.
“We can’t stick it back on with glue, can we?”
Sophia, her face white beneath her makeup, shook her head.
Her blue eyes flooded.
“Uh-uh. It’s gonna take years and years and years for your beautiful hair to grow again.”
“I’m gonna get mama. You two are in BIG TROUBLE, again,” Luca said and raced out the door.
A few hours later, a whistling Nico strolled through the door of the kitchen-dining-living space.
His dark brows rose.
No sign of his bambinos.
No sign of dinner.
He shrugged out of his suit jacket, hung it on the back of a chair, removed his silk tie and rolled it up and tucked it in his jacket pocket—in case the baby had sticky fingers. As he slid open the top couple of buttons on his crisp cotton white shirt, he spotted his wife.
She had her bare feet up on the couch.
Eyes closed, her blonde head rested on a fat cushion.
In one hand she held a glass half filled with Prosecco.
Again his dark brows rose.
“What’s the occasion?” he asked.
When she said nothing, but made a sound like a whimper in her throat, he dropped a kiss on her nose, lifted her legs, sat and settled her narrow feet on his lap.
“Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Bronte asked.
Nico lifted her hand with the wine glass and took a sip.
“Well, today Sophia did NOT cut off ALL of Emily’s hair.”
“You got that right.”
Bronte’s eyes opened. “Because, from what we could decipher in amongst the crying and wailing, she didn’t think Tonio will marry her unless she cut it.”
When Nico simply blinked, she nodded her head. “I know. I swear she’s obsessed with him. Of course, once he’d told he’d loved her hair, she wailed even louder. Poor Grace had to phone her hairdresser for an emergency appointment. And you know what a bloody drama queen Carlo is, I could hear his screeching from here.”
She closed her eyes and laid her head back on the cushion.
“I’ve just about had enough of half-term and kids,” she said bitterly. “To hell with healthy eating. To hell with forcing Luca to eat little trees. To hell with fresh fruit and vegetables. They want to eat pizza every night of their natural lives… let them. I give up.”
Nico rubbed her bare feet.
He brought her foot to his mouth and pressed a soft kiss on the arch.
“What’s for dinner?”
“I am so blessed.”
“Believe it, pal. Believe it.”
I remember so very well the time my youngest daughter, she was four, cut her hair two days before my sister’s wedding…. Good times. Good times.