‘I am, after we’ve told my delightful mother-in-law that she’s going to be a grandmother.’ He jumps out of the car and leaves me all horrified and suddenly not so keen on seeing my mum. She’s going to pass out. The door opens next to me. ‘Out you get.’
I close my eyes and look for some patience. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ I ask.
‘They need to know.’ He takes my hand and pulls me out.
‘No, you just can’t wait to advise my forty seven year old mother that she’s going to be a gran.’
‘Not at all.’ He’s all defensive, but I know his game. He loves rubbing her up the wrong way. Holding my hand, he leads me up the driveway to my parent’s semi by the sea.
‘How did you know where to come?’ This has only just occurred to me. He’s never been here before. Or has he?
‘I called and asked for the address, and I believe that’s your father’s car.’ He points to my dad’s Mercedes. ‘Am I right?’
‘Yes,’ I grumble. My parents are obviously expecting us.
As we approach the front door, Jesse lifts my hand and kisses it sweetly, giving me a little wink. I smile at the irritating rogue. Then he snaps a pair of handcuffs over our wrists.
‘What are you doing?’ I pull against him, but it’s too late. He works those cuffs well. ‘Jesse!’
The front door swings open and my mum stands there, looking all lovely in a pair of cropped jeans and a little cream jumper. ‘My girl’s home!’
‘Hi, Mum.’ Jesse chirps, lifting our cuffed hands and waving on a grin. I knew he would do that, and even though my poor mum has just staggered in shock, I can’t help breaking out in a huge smile. He’s all playful, and I love it.
She gets herself in a fluster and does a quick scan on the outside area behind us before grabbing Jesse and hauling him into the hallway. ‘Get those cuffs off my daughter, you menace.’
He laughs and removes them promptly, quickly restoring Elizabeth’s smile. ‘Happy?’ he asks.
‘Yes,’ She knocks his shoulder before moving in and squeezing me to her bosom. ‘It’s so good to see you, darling. I’ve got the spare room ready for you.’
‘We’re staying?’ I ask, accepting her hug.
‘We fly out in the morning.’ Jesse pipes up. ‘I thought we’d run a visit in before your mum starts thinking that I’m keeping you from her.’
Mum drops me and takes Jesse in her arms. ‘Thank you for bringing her to visit.’ she says, squeezing him extra tight.
I smile as I watch him accept her hug, rolling his eyes over her shoulder at me. All of this isn’t for him. I know that he’d rather have me to himself any day of the week, but he really is trying, and I love him all the more for it.
‘Make the most of it because I’m kidnapping her in the morning.’
‘Yes, yes, I know.’ She releases him. ‘Joseph! They’re here! I’ll make tea.’
We follow her down to the kitchen, and I gaze around, taking in the ever perfect neatness and preciseness of my parent’s home. I didn’t grow up here, but mum has gone out of her way to replicate my childhood home, even having a wall knocked down to join the kitchen and dining room, making it a huge family room.
My dad is sitting at the kitchen table, reading a newspaper. ‘Hi, Dad!’ I lean over his shoulder and kiss his cheek, and like always he tenses at the show of affection.
‘Ava, how are you?’ He closes his paper and puts his hand out to Jesse, who has made himself comfy in the chair next to Dad. ‘Is she keeping you on your toes?’
‘Of course,’ Jesse flicks me a look, and I scoff.
After visiting the loo, I settle at the table with my dad and my husband and watch quietly as they chat at ease while my mum makes tea, throwing little bits into the conversation here and there. It’s a wonderful sight, and if anyone would’ve said that this would happen when I first got involved with my Lord of the Sex Manor, I would have laughed in their face. I would never have dreamt it. I’m so happy.
‘I thought we could go down to The Windmill for dinner tonight.’ Mum says, placing the tea on the table. ‘We’ll stroll down. It’s going to be a lovely evening.’
Dad grunts his agreement, no doubt looking forward to a few pints. ‘That sounds like a plan.’ he agrees.
‘Perfect,’ Jesse places his hand on my knee and squeezes.
‘Ladies first,’ Jesse holds the door open, and mum and I slip past. ‘Joseph,’
‘Thank you, Jesse.’ My dad walks ahead, leading us to a table by the fireplace, which is lit with an array of candles, rather than the usual logs and flames that crackle during the winter months.
‘Drinks?’ Jesse asks, pulling out a chair for me, but soon stopping me from resting my bum down when he notices it’s hard wood and free of anything cushioned. Leaving me standing, he quickly swaps it for a nearby high-backed chair with arms, upholstered in a regal green velvet.
‘I’ll have a glass of white.’ Mum perches neatly down and takes her glasses out to read the menu.
‘Pint of Carlsberg for me, please.’ Dad says.
‘And for my beautiful girl?’ Jesse asks, pushing me down onto the soft seat.
‘Water, please.’ I place my order with absolutely no thought, until my mum’s head flies up from the menu.
‘No wine?’ Her face is shocked as she looks over her glasses at me.
I shift on my seat and feel Jesse fidgeting behind me as he tucks me in closer to the table. ‘No, we need to get away early.’ I flip casually, picking up a menu. I’m very abruptly reminded of the reason we’re here. I’m really not looking forward to this.
‘Oh,’ She still looks surprised, but she doesn’t push the matter further, instead pointing out the specials on the menu.
I feel Jesse’s hot breath at my ear. Of course, I shiver, still quite pent up from our abandoned encounter in the Aston Martin. ‘I love you.’ He kisses my cheek, and I reach up to feel his stubbled cheek out.
He leaves us at the table to order the drinks, and I watch as my mum reads out everything on the menu to my dad, and then proceeds to recite the daily specials from the various blackboards dotted around the bar.
‘Have you heard from Dan?’ I ask.
‘Yes, he called earlier, darling.’ Mum tells me. ‘He said that you met for lunch yesterday. How lovely. I told him you were coming down before you go on holiday, but he didn’t know. I’m surprised Jesse didn’t think to tell him.’
I’m not surprised, but my mum seems to be blissfully unaware of the animosity batting between my brother and my husband. ‘This was last minute.’ I shake my head dismissively. ‘Jesse probably forgot.’ I feel a tad guilty. It didn’t cost me a thought to let Dan know that I was out of London for a while.
I’m saved from further interrogation when a tray is placed on the table. Everyone takes their drinks, and my parents both gasp appreciatively around the rims of their alcohol filled glasses. I look at my own clear filled highball with as much enthusiasm as I feel for it, and then at my mum’s wineglass on a sigh.
‘What are you having, then’ Mum asks. ‘I think I’ll go for the seafood platter.’
I lean over to Jesse and share his menu, my hand falling to his knee. He picks it up and absentmindedly kisses it, not taking his eyes from the menu. ‘What would you like, baby?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘I’m having the mussels in garlic.’ Dad declares, pointing at the board, which is displaying a mouth-watering selection of seafood dishes. ‘Bloody delicious.’ He smacks his lips and takes a swig of his pint.
I’m torn. Seafood is a must, especially being so close to the sea, but what shall I have? The Seafood Platter, full of cockles, mussels, crab and king prawns, or the mussels drenched in garlic butter with warm, freshly baked bread. My stomach growls, pushing me to hurry and fill it up. ‘I can’t decide.’
‘Tell me what you’re thinking, and I’ll help you.’ Jesse looks over, waiting for me to enlighten him on my quandary.
‘Mussels or the seafood platter.’ I muse.
His eyes bug. ‘Neither!’ he blurts, drawing the attention of my parents, who both pause with their drinks halfway to their mouths.
‘Why?’ I turn a frown on him, but very quickly realise exactly why. He’s read something in that bloody book. ‘Oh, come on, Jesse!’
He shakes his head. ‘No way, lady. Not a chance. There’s some sort of mercury in fish that can damage an unborn baby’s nervous system. Don’t even try to defy me on this one.’
‘Are you going to let me eat anything?’ My brow is completely furrowed. I love seafood.
‘Yes. Chicken, steak. Both are high in protein, and that’s good for our babies.’
I let out a frustrated protest and grab my water viciously. I’m going to lose my mind. I’ll be on Prozac by the time these babies arrive.
I’m so busy having a mental sulk, it takes me a few moments to register my parent’s stunned faces across the table.
‘Do it in style, Ava.’ Jesse mutters, placing his menu on the table. I shoot incredulous eyes to him. Me?
‘You’re pregnant?’ Mum blurts, the information overload obviously registering.
‘Ava?’ Dad presses when I remain focused on Jesse, who is remaining focused on the menu that he’s just laid down.
I take a deep breath of confidence and bite the bullet. There’s no escaping this now, not that I ever dreamt Jesse would allow me to leave Newquay without telling them. ‘Surprise.’ I whisper, like a feeble cop out.
‘But you’ve been married for five minutes!’ Mum gasps. ‘Five minutes!’
I watch as my dad places a calming hand on her arm, but that isn’t going to stop her. I can feel a rant coming on, in which case, I also feel a Jesse style trample coming on. I can’t imagine him taking a critical speech from my mother too well. She’s right, though. We have only been married for a few short weeks. Not quite five minutes, but it may as well be. I dare not tell her how far pregnant I am. She’ll work out the timeframes fast enough and soon calculate just how soon after meeting this man I got myself knocked up. Coming to terms with the fact that I met and married him so quickly was hard enough, even if Jesse did delicately-ish trample them and gain my father’s approval.
I remain quiet, as does Jesse, as does my father, but not my mother. Oh no, she’s only just getting started. I can tell by the flex of her fingers on her wine glass and the drawing of deep breaths.
And then I get really worried because her eyes widen and swing towards Jesse. ‘It was a shotgun wedding, wasn’t it? You married her because you had to!’
‘Thanks!’ I laugh, thinking how obscene it is for her to say such a thing. She’s not thinking straight, and now she’s saying stupid shit. Even with her limited time with us, she knows how we feel about each other.
‘Elizabeth,’ Jesse sits forward, all stern, his jaw ticking. I fear the worst. ‘You know better than that.’ He sounds so calm, but I can detect the irritation in his tone, and I can hardly blame him. He’s insulted, and so am I.
Mum huffs a little, but Dad interjects before she can retaliate. ‘So you didn’t know at the wedding?’
‘No,’ I answer quickly, taking my glass with both hands to prevent my natural reflex from failing me. Yes, we both knew damn well, even if I was denying it.
‘I see,’ Dad sighs.
‘I can’t believe it,’ Mum whines. ‘A pregnant bride suggests only one thing.’