The Christening









When I opened my eyes, I was surprised by two things.  The first was that it was still dark outside.  The second was that I was wide awake, and did not want to go back to sleep despite the fact it was so dark outside.


I had to lie there for a few minutes wondering what was going on, and then I remembered.  Actually, how could I forget, given I flew into Boston last night with Uncle Alex, and we were staying here for a couple of days so that I could visit some of the sights of the city before we went up to Maine for the Christening.


It was still a little bit of a shock to me that I had been asked to be a godparent, even more so that I was out here on my own without the others.  Last time I came to the US I was accompanied by Suzie, Jenny and Cassie, and we spent the whole week with Heidi and the others.  This time, I was with Uncle Alex, but we had also flown over with the Williamsons – Lisa, Charlie and their parents.  Charlie’s dad had some business to take care of in Boston, and then they were heading up to Martha’s Vineyard while we went to stay with Heidi and Cindy at their place.  The middle weekend would be the big event – I was to be one of the godmothers for little Bart and Sarah, the children of Brian and Sarah Holderness-Carter.


Sitting up, I put on a dressing gown and switched on the television, idly switching through the news channels.  It was actually six in the morning, but my body clock had it at eleven.  Even though we caught a later flight over, and it was nearer ten by the time we checked in, this was probably all the sleep I was going to get tonight.


Uncle Alex had sprung for business seats, as had Mister Williamson, so we at least had a decent and comfortable flight, even if Charlie proved to be a bad flyer.  It was the first time for both of them, and they were excited  - but even after the special meal the airline laid on for them, I don’t think Charlie expected to test out the air sickness bags quite so late on in.


Anyway, by the time we landed he was all right, and we enjoyed the ride through the underground roads and to the airport.  As I said, however, it was late when we got in, so I made my excuses, opened my bag enough to get my night stuff out, and – well that just about brings us up to now.


I took the bottle of water that was by the television and opened it, sipping it as I looked out onto the river.  On the flight over, I’d agreed to help look after the other two while Dad and their father talked business, and also to babysit for them a couple of days later while Mr and Mrs Williamson enjoyed a night out with some other friends over here.


Apart from that, I was looking forward to a bit of shopping for me and the others.  The day before we flew out, I’d spent the day with Martin, and he’d asked me to pick up some CDs you can’t get for some reason in the UK.  I’d also spoken to Jenny that night – she’d ended up with some of the other girls the ‘guest’ of Charlie and Lisa for a few hours, and told me to be very very careful if I was babysitting them.  Especially Charlie – he could apparently be very persuasive.


Well, I had to look forward to that – right now, I was looking at a case with the lid open, so I decided I may as well spend some of the time unpacking and hanging my clothes.




It was eight when I heard a knock on my door, and opened it to see Uncle Alex standing there.  I had showered and changed into a black t-shirt, some white shorts, black leggings and sneakers.  He was dressed casually as well – for him, in an open necked shirt and trousers.


“Sleep well,” he said as I grabbed my door key and went out with him.


“Woke up at six, so I unpacked and then showered,” I said as we walked to the lift.


“Yeah – I was up about the same time, watching the news.  I also phoned your Aunt Susan – she went for a scan this morning, and mum and baby are doing fine.”


Aunt Susan was expecting – a long prayed for event, and she was beginning to show the bump now.  My cousin Bobby was looking forward to another sibling and Suzie was looking forward to no longer being the youngest member of the family.  Well, she wasn’t really – Andrew gets that job, but not for much longer.




I actually was, so we went down to the lobby where Lisa and Charlie were waiting with their parents.  Charlie had on a polo shirt and jeans, while Lisa was wearing a white sun dress that came to just above her knees, and a cardigan.


“This is a funny place,” Lisa said as we walked into the restaurant, and the waiter showed us to a table for six, “more channels on the television, and less worth watching.”


“Yeah, but you get used to that,” I said, without mentioning I had put on a channel showing a program called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


“Agreed,” her father said, “I ended up firing up my laptop and watching the BBC instead of the news channels on my set.  Before the week’s out, I’ll probably give up on watching it anyway.”


We sat down and the waiter poured us all orange juice and iced water, before I took Lisa and Charlie up to get some breakfast cereal.  I put some fruit in a bowl and added some yogurt instead – I truly, honestly can’t stand Fruit Loops.


Which didn’t stop Charlie putting some in a bowl, adding milk, sitting down, taking one taste – and pushing the bowl away from himself, before he went and got some melon slices instead.


“Gotta learn the hard way sometimes, son,” his dad said, as he came back with some pancakes, bacon and maple syrup.


“I might try that instead,” Charlie said as he watched Lisa eating her rice krispies and milk.


“Well, if you want to go and get some hot food after that, feel free,” their mother said.  “Did you recognise the girl who was sat next to you on the plane, Alicia?”


I had sat next to a young dark haired girl on the flight, and it had struck me as funny that she had not got up throughout the flight – she had been seated there when we had got on the plane.  She chatted with an older woman, about the same age as Mum, who I took to be her mother, and I gathered this was them moving full time to live in the states.  But apart from the fact she was going to Connecticut, I didn’t pay that much attention.


Until we landed, and a wheelchair was brought up while a security guard lifted her into the chair, her mother pushing her off as the rest of us waited.


“I can’t say I did,” I said quietly, “who was she?”


“Jeannie Brewster,” Uncle Alex said with a smile.


I must have looked a picture – I spent the entire flight next to one of the most famous models in the world, and I didn’t recognise her?  Cathy and Mary were going to kill me when they found out.


“Don’t feel so bad – I didn’t recognise her either, but when Mark was in the shower I watched a news clip on Good Morning America of her arriving in the US.  Caused quite a stir she did.”


“So she’s a famous woman,” Lisa said.


“Very famous – I watched her on the Graham Norton show when she got a modelling contract.”


I finished my fruit, and went up to get an omelette, coming back and sitting with the others as Uncle Alex and Mister Williamson talked business.


“So where are we going today Alicia,” Lisa said as she looked at me.


“Well, I’m going to take you down to the docks this morning,” her mum said, “but I hope you can get them some lunch Alicia, and then show them round some of the museums for an hour or two – Mark and I need to meet someone for lunch.”


“It’s only for an hour – I’m done at two today, so I’ll meet you after that.  And you won’t be alone?”


“I won’t?”


“Nah – I’m here for the day as well.”


I jumped up and embraced Heidi, who had apparently been standing behind me for some time.


“Good to see you as well, Ali,” she finally said as I stopped hugging her.  “Anne had to come into town, so she suggested I come in and help you out with the youngsters.”


“I’m not a youngster,” Charlie said as he cut into a pancake.


“No, but you are the youngest of all of us.”


There really was no answer to that, so we went to our rooms to do our teeth, and then met Heidi in the lobby before Mrs Williamson walked out with us.


“So how’s your summer been,” Heidi said.


“Quiet for once – I start back at school in a couple of weeks.  You?”


“We went as a group up into the woods last week – it was – interesting?”


“Oh yeah?”


“I’ll tell you about it later,” Heidi said with a smile.  She took Lisa’s hand and showed her some of the buildings as we made our way down to the docks.





We spent most of the day walking round the docks and looking at the historical displays, with Heidi and me left in charge while we got lunch.  Uncle Alex then took us back to the hotel, and we sat by the side of the pool while Lisa and Charlie enjoyed a swim.


“Cindy’s looking forward to seeing you this weekend,” Heidi said as the two youngsters swam up and down.  “She’s sorry she couldn’t be here today, but she and Dorothy had to go see a lawyer about something.”


“How are the others?”


“Jannifer and the girls are fine, so are Nats and Alice.”


I nodded as we watched, and then Heidi said “Listen, while you’re up we’re going to have a sleepover – interested?”


“Sure – so long as Uncle Alex knows.”


“Would he object?”


“Nah – it’s the deal.  He knows what I’m up to, he won’t ask what I’m doing in excruciating detail while I do it.”


“Sounds like a plan,” Heidi laughed.


“So when are you heading back?”


“When Anne gets here – about five thirty I think.  I hear you have tickets for a show tonight?”


“Yeah – then I get to babysit these two tomorrow.”


“Sounds fun – can’t be worse than when I babysat the twins and Freddie.”


“Who’s Freddie?”


“A friend of theirs from school – I’ll tell you the full story later in the week.”


Which was the cue for Anne Duncombe, FBI Agent and friend of all of us, to show up.  “Hey Ali,” she said as she looked in, “Heidi, sorry but we need to go now.”


“OK – see you at the weekend,” she said as she walked off, leaving me to wonder what she had meant.


“Come on you two,” I said to Charlie and Lisa, “out of the pool – your parents will be home soon.”




The next day Mister and Mrs Williamson had arranged to go and see some old friends, and then go out to dinner with them, which meant Uncle Alex and I had the joy of watching the two kids for the day.  We spent the late morning and afternoon in one of the main parks, and then took them out for a meal, but it was when we got back that the evening got interesting.


Uncle Alex left me to supervise their bedtime, but as Lisa went to get changed Charlie looked at me and smiled.


“Alicia,” he said quietly, “Lisa and I were wondering if you would help us play a little game?”


“Oh – what sort of game?”  I’d heard what happened last time Charlie got an idea.


“Lisa and I want you to pretend to kidnap us and hold us hostage in the room.”


“Well, Charlie, I’d normally say yes, but we don’t have any rope or the other usual materials, so it might be a little difficult.”


“I know,” he said with a smile, “which is why we snuck this over in my rucksack.”  He opened it up and took out a full roll of the white tape we use as part of what Patty likes to call “the full service gag.”


“It’ll be like in the movies – the bad girl uses tape to secure and silence the kids.”


I knew it would at least make things easier for me, so I nodded and said “all right – when Lisa comes back into the room, you go and get yourself ready, and I’ll play with her first.”


“Play what with her,” Lisa said as she came in, wearing a pink vest top and knee length bottoms.  Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail.


“What we talked about earlier,” Charlie said as he left, Lisa looking at me as she said “Great – can I just ask you put Cartoon Network or something like that on?”


“I’ll decide that,” I said as I grabbed Lisa from behind, putting my hand over her mouth and saying “You’re going to be a good little girl, and do whatever I say without making a scene, aren’t you?”


“Lbgddd” Lisa mumbled as she nodded, so I picked up the roll of tape and said quietly “Good – lie face down on the bed, and put your hands behind your back.”


“Who are you, and why are you doing this,” she said in a shaky voice as she lay down, and I arranged her arms behind her back so that her elbows rested in the palms of her hands.


“Someone who knows your parents will pay a great deal of money to have you back safely,” I said, trying to be as evil as possible as I taped her wrists to her arms.


“Sorry, Ali,” Lisa giggled as she turned her head and looked at me, “you can’t do an evil voice to save your life.”


“I know, I know – Angie’s much better at it than me,” I said as I taped her ankles together, and then her legs below and above her knees, then helped her to sit up while I taped her upper arms to her sides.  “But don’t think that means you can get the better of me…”


“Hey, what are you doing to my sister?”


I turned round to see Charlie standing there, wearing a pair of blue cotton pyjamas.


“Charlie, run,” Lisa said, but before he could take two steps I grabbed him and put my hand over his mouth.


“I wondered where little brother was,” I said as he squirmed under my grip, “you’re going to do whatever I tell you, got it?”


“Ltmgggunstwwgrl,” he mumbled under my hand, but I held firm and smiled as I said “Tell him.”


“Please, Charlie, she said she’d hurt me,” Lisa said, so Charlie stopped and then nodded.


“Good – hands behind your back please,” I said, and as Charlie moved them behind I crossed and taped his wrists together, then taped them to his back with a band around his waist, followed by one around his arms and stomach.


“Sit on the bed next to your sister,” I said, so Charlie got on the bed, saying “I’ll make sure she can’t hurt us,” as he watched me taping his ankles and legs together.


“Now then – I need to make a little phone call, so you two need to be quiet,” I then said as I tore off two strips of the tape, and pressed them over their mouths – yeah, not a really effective gag, but it was a simple game, after all, and they played along, mumbling to each other as I put on the cartoon network channel and let them watch it while I caught up on some messages on my phone.


Do you know how sometimes, you fall asleep and don’t realise you have until much later?  Well, they were so good and so quiet, and the room so warm, that I must have dozed off in the chair I was sitting in – because when I came to, they were both free, and I had my arms taped down to the arms of the chair, and my ankles and legs taped together – not to mention a strip of tape pressed down firmly over my own mouth.


“Hswttlrrddd,” I mumbled as I wriggled round, more for show than anything.


They’d slipped my shoes off me as well, as Charlie said “We got the bad woman, Lisa – what do you say to the idea of punishing her?”


“Whtrufnkkg – hnnnnn,” I mumbled as they knelt down and started tickling the soles of my feet, making me laugh out loud into the tape.  For once, I was glad it wasn’t a full gag – because the way I was laughing, I could have started choking if the tape hadn’t come away, and I was able to laugh out loud.


This went on for a little while, before there was a knock on the door and Lisa went to see who it was.  Uncle Alex took one look at me when he came in, and said “All right kids – time for bed, but gather all the tape up and put it in a bag to give to me first.”


“Yes Mister Holderness,” Charlie said as he freed me, and then helped his sister to clear up.


“Fell asleep?”


I nodded as I said “I won’t make that mistake again.”


“Never say never,” he said with a smile as Charlie handed him the bag, and I made my way back to my own room.





“Ah there you are,” Mrs Williamson said as I came down to breakfast the next morning, “I hear my children gave you a little trouble last night.”


“Not really, just fun and games,” I said with a smile as I sat down.  “How was your day?”


“Very interesting,” she said with a smile as the kids came over, saying “Hi Ali” as they sat down with their breakfasts. 


“You’re heading up to join Heidi and her family later today aren’t you,” Mrs Williamson said as she looked at me.


“That’s right – after breakfast, Dad has a hire car ready and we’re going to drive up.”


“Well, you might like to know we’ve changed our plans, and we’ll see you there on Friday.”


“We have,” Lisa said as she looked up, “what’s happened?”


“Brian and Sarah Holderness-Carter have asked if we can also be godparents to their baby twins, so we’re going to delay going to Martha’s Vineyard until Monday, and stay there with them for the weekend instead.  They’re having the ceremony in the same town as Heidi lives in, so you’ll get to meet all her friends as well.”


“Fine by me,” Lisa said, but Charlie picked at his food.


“Heidi said there was a boy some of them knew – Freddie.  I’m sure there will be other boys as well, so you don’t feel like Bobby does when we get together,” I said with a smile.


“Morning all,” Uncle Alex said as he sat down, “Mark says you’re going to be Godparents as well, Yvonne.”


“That’s right – do you know the others?”


“Well, did you meet Amy at the wedding?”


“Only in passing – she’s Heidi’s mother, right?”


“That’s right – well, Jack Hawkins is a friend of Brian’s, while Chloe and James are young friends of theirs.  Angela knows Chloe well – a French student who looks as if she is going to settle over there.”


“Well, I look forward to getting to know them all better – we’re meeting you lot on Saturday for a rehearsal and lunch, and then the event on the Sunday, right?”


I nodded – this was going to be a more interesting holiday than I had thought it would be.




Maine in the summer is an interesting place – like England in a lot of ways, but a bit warmer.  We left Boston at about ten, and stopped for lunch on the way up at a roadside diner, but it was nearly five by the time we arrived at the address Amy had given us.


We’d never been to their new home, so it was quite a revelation to see how large a place it was – but it was even better to see Heidi come out with Cindy to greet us as we got out of the car.  Heidi was wearing a sleeveless red cheesecloth blouse, the front tied under her chest, and denim shorts with trainers, while Cindy was wearing a black t-shirt and leggings, her dark hair slightly longer than I had remembered it.


“Welcome to Casa Strong Elsworth,” Heidi said as we hugged.  “Come on in – mom’s just brewing up some coffee.”


They led us into the house and through into the kitchen, where Amy Strong was standing at the coffee machine.  She smiled at us and said “Hey there – ready for a drink?”


I could see how much Heidi had grown – she was almost as tall as her blonde haired mother now, while Cindy was still a little smaller and not as thin. 


“Where’s Dorothy,” Uncle Alex said as he sat down.


“Work – she’ll be back in a few minutes.  Did you hear about Mark and Yvonne?”


“Joining the throng of godparents?  I heard – these two kids are going to have quite a bit of support.  I imagine they have grown a bit as well?”


“A little – how’s Susan?”


“Growing as well.”


“Do you know if it is a boy or a girl yet?”


“No comment – besides, Connie is due to give birth next.”


“So I hear – and how are those twins?”


“Walking, and causing merry mayhem for their parents.  We took them with us and Andrew to a play group, and they virtually monopolised the bricks between themselves.”


“I’m home,” we heard a voice say, and Dorothy Elsworth came in, putting her briefcase down and kissing Amy before she took a mug of coffee.


“How was the drive up,” she finally said as she sat down.


“Very nice – so what are the plans for the next few days?”


“Not much – you’re free to do what you want, but be warned – the girls are having a sleepover Friday night.”


“So Ali told me – I presume we’re getting out of the way?”


“Katherine’s invited us round to her place.”


“We’re going round to see Jan after dinner, lay the plans for Friday,” Heidi said as she looked at me, “want to come along?”


“Sounds good,” I said as I sipped my coffee.  I was sure we had a lot to talk about with each other…



Dinner was fun, as Amy had cooked a fish pie, so we sat round and talked about events.  Uncle Alex told them how Grandfather was doing – he was recovering well, and slowly getting back to his old self.  Grandmother had also sent her love, as well as some christening presents – but they were a secret for now.


“Is it right that Cassie Jr and Suzie are coming to your school this year,” Cindy said as she passed over the jug of lemonade.


“Yup – I don’t think Jenny is too bothered about it, but it’s not just them – Pippa, Hazel and Clare are coming as well.”


“The gang of five in the same school?  Any idea if they will be in the same class?”


“I don’t know,” I said, “they find out when they start, but the poor darlings start the day before us.”


Dorothy brought out a Key Lime pie, which we ate with great gusto, and then we excused ourselves and left the house, walking through the estate as we talked about absolutely nothing in particular.


As we got to Jannifer’s place, Heidi knocked on the door, and we waited until it was opened by a thin, blonde haired woman wearing a floor length skirt and a white blouse.


“Oh hi girls,” their mother said, “Jannifer’s in the front room if you want to go through.”  She opened the door and allowed us to go in, where Jannifer was sitting, wearing a pair of yellow leggings and a matching t-shirt.


“Hey,” she said as she stood up and hugged me, “how was Boston?”


“Warm and tiring,” I said with a smile, “especially with Charlie and Lisa to watch over.”


“Yeah, I remember them – did you know they’re coming here this weekend?”


“So Uncle Alex told me - they’re going to be godparents as well.”


“Quite a collection isn’t it,” Jannifer said as we sat down, “you and your Uncle Alex, Anne, Alice’s dad, and now the Williamsons.  Wonder why they picked you?”


“Because we will be loving and caring godparents, of course,” I said as I sat down.  “Where are the twins anyway?”


“Upstairs – a friend from their class called round and they took him up there.”


“Him?  At their age?”


“He’s not that much younger than Cassie, and neither are they,” Jannifer said as Heidi looked at her.


“Freddie?  You let them take him up to your room?”


“Sure – what could possibly happen?”


“Jan, my dearest friend, did you not hear what happened when I babysat last week?”


“The way I heard it,” Cindy said, “you got taped real good by both of them – something they did to both of us while we were away.”


“Half right,” Heidi said as Blossom brought in some drinks, and then went back out again.  “I got taped real good, and tickled real good, but it wasn’t them who did it – it was Freddie.”


“Freddie?  He looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.”


“Really?  Have you heard anything from them since they went upstairs?”


Jannifer looked at Heidi, and then stood up.


“Mind if I come and see as well,” I said.


“Sure – what about you two?”


“We’ll wait here – shouldn’t take you too long “


I followed Jannifer up the stairs and into one of the bedrooms, waiting as she opened the door and looked in.


“Oh great,” she said as she turned and looked at me, “are you sure none of you guys know Freddie?”


She opened the door to see Britney and Margo lying on their beds, looking at Jannifer and saying “Hlllshee” through the white scarves tied between their lips.


Both girls were wearing shorts and t-shirts, with their bare feet tied at their ankles and to their wrists, which were secured behind their backs.


Between the beds stood a ten year old boy, with short brown hair, who looked at both of us and said, “Hey Jannifer – I was just playing with the twins.  Who’s your friend?”


“Alicia,” Jannifer said with a sigh, “this is Frederick Cork the Second, Freddie to one and sundry.  Freddie, Alicia is a friend of Heidi’s from the UK.”


“Hey,” the boy said, “good to meet you.  I’ll let them go once they ask for it.”


“Which, knowing those two, may be some time,” Jannifer said with a sigh.  “All right, but try and keep the noise down, all right?”


Closing the door, Jannifer shook his head as I looked at her.


“Charlie is going to get on very well indeed with him,” I said as I heard the laughing behind the closed door.


“Let’s just leave them to it,” Jannifer said as they walked down the stairs, just in time to see Natalie and Alice come in.  Nats was wearing a white sleeveless blouse and long skirt, but I could see the rope anklets above her bare feet, while Alice had her hair back in a ponytail, and was wearing a red crop top and leggings with her trainers.


“Hey Ali,” Nats said as we hugged each other, “Left the oldsters to their own devices, did you?”


“More like we dragged her out to plan some fun,” Heidi said from the doorway.  “Come on – we want all the gossip.  How’s Martin?”


“Great – he sang a special song for me at my birthday party, and I’m going to take him to a football game at some point.  Bobby threatened to take him to a Chelsea game, but we settled for an international instead.”


“So you’re slowly getting him out of his shell?”


“I prefer to think we’re finding a shell we can both be comfortable in,” I said with a smile.  “What about you and Dave?”


“Going great, so are Cindy and her guy,” Heidi said as we grabbed some drinks.  “And I presume all’s well with Cassie and Jenny?”


“Oh yeah – but the others are playing catch up.”


“Really?  Don’t tell me Mary and Cathy have beaus as well?”


“Oh yeah – Mary is stepping out with Mark Cottrell, a guy from our class, and Cathy has met a young man called Sam Stewart.  He’s the little brother of Mrs Boyle.”


“Good – about time they found someone to step out with,” Nats said as she tucked her legs under her skirt.  “So what else are we missing out on?”


We spent the next hour or so discussing girls, boys, and life in general, eating snacks and drinking soft drinks.  I actually managed to unwind more than I had during the trip – as evidence by the fact Heidi shook me and said “Hey, sleepy head – are we boring you?”


“Sorry,” I said as I shook myself, “I must have dozed off.”


“Well, we’re done for now anyway,” she said as I stood up.  “Come on – we’ll get you back and into your bed.”







I woke up the next day unsure of what time it was – the light was shining through the windows, and I could hear birds singing outside, but I had no idea what time it was.


So I got up and walked down the stairs, where Amy and Dorothy were sitting in the front room with Uncle Alex.


“Morning,” I said as I looked in.


“Afternoon – it’s just past midday,” Amy said as she stood up, “come and sit down and I’ll get you something to eat.”


“Thanks – for letting me sleep in and for the food,” I said as I sat down.  “Where are the girls?”


“Went out for some stuff for Friday night,” Dorothy said.  “They said to let you rest, and then the three of you are going out for pizza tonight.”






The next few days passed like a blur, as all of us spent time at the mall, at the cinema, all the things a bunch of fourteen year old girls would do.  In fact, I kinda lost track of time – unusual for me, I know, but I did, because I hadn’t realised Friday had come round until we came in and saw Lisa and Charlie sitting in the room.


“Hey,” Lisa said, “we just got here, and came to pay respects to the others.  How’s your week been?”


“Not bad,” I said with a smile, “yours?”


“Mum and Dad kept us busy,” Charlie said with a smile.  “Anyway, what’s this I hear about you girls having a sleepover tonight?”


“You’re not invited,” Heidi said as she looked at him.


“It’s all right – the twins asked if we wanted to go round.  They said they had a friend for Charlie to talk to as well.”


The three of us looked at each other, before Cindy said “Listen, about that friend,” and took Lisa out of the room.


“What is she talking about,” Charlie said as he looked at me.


“Nothing for you to worry about, nothing at all,” Heidi said as she sat next to him.  “Where are your parents?”


“Talking to your mum and aunt in the kitchen,” Charlie said. 


“We’ll be back in a minute,” Heidi said as we went through, to see Mr and Mrs Williamson sitting with Amy and Heidi’s Aunt Veronica.


“Hey,” Veronica said, “I was just saying to Mark and Yvonne that the ‘oldies’ are coming round to my place tonight.  We’ll leave the house to you lot, while Charlie and Lisa sleep over at Blossom’s place.”


“Sounds good – so long as you leave the money for the pizzas,” Heidi said.


“Of course - why would we forget the most important things,” Amy said with a smile as she looked at her watch.


“That’s my mom,” Heidi said with a smile as she hugged her.



As seven o’clock came round, the adults had disappeared, and the three of us were sitting in the drawing room, DVDs and drinks at the ready.  I was wearing a pair of light blue pyjamas, Cindy was in a knee length white nightgown, and Heidi in a powder pink vest top and shorts.


The next to arrive was Jannifer, who nipped upstairs and came back in her by now infamous Disney Princess nightgown, this time in purple.


“I’ve heard of this, but…”


“Ali, just get it over with.”


“It suits you.”


Jannifer smiled as Cindy went to let in Alice and Natalie, but when they came down I saw they had brought a friend as well.


“Alicia,” Natalie said, “this is Fi, a friend from school.  Fi, Alicia Holderness.”


“Pleased to meetcha,” she said as she sat down.  Fi was wearing a short sleeved pink nightdress, which came to above her knees, while Nats had on a shorts and t-shirt combo, and Alice an old black t-shirt over some tights.


“Right – pizza is ordered, drinks are here,” Heidi said, “what are we going to do first?”


“Well, I don’t know about you lot,” Natalie said as she sat down, “but I think we need to get all the gossip out of Ali here about what’s going on in the UK – all the stuff she hasn’t told us yet.”


“Oh yeah – and what do you think I haven’t told you yet?”


“Have you and Martin kissed yet?”


I blushed and nodded as the girls clapped and cheered.  “Who’s Martin,” Fi said.


“Alicia’s boyfriend – actually, tell you what.”  Heidi got up and went to a cupboard, removing a DVD and putting it in.  “Before we do anything, let me show you a film of a party that Alicia’s grandparents hosted last year.  She can tell you who everyone is.”


So she put on the film of the summer ball, and I explained to Fi who everyone was – the friends, cousins, parents, aunts and uncles, as she watched.  The best bit was when her eyes nearly popped out of her head at the bound and gagged dance.


“Oh my,” she said quietly, “and I thought this lot were ingenious?”


“Oh believe me,” Cindy said as she picked up her drink, “we are rank amateurs compared to what happens when the Craig girls get going.  Tell her about your lost weekend, Ali.”


“Your lost weekend?”


“She means when a group of us were kidnapped by a gang of criminals, alongside Cassie’s mum, to force her dad to do a series of robberies for them.”


“You were kidnapped?”


“Yeah,” I said as I told her about spending the weekend with Jay Edwards and the gang, wearing old fashioned clothes while bound and gagged most of the time.


“Oh my,” she said again, “I mean, it must have been exciting and terrifying at the same time.”


I looked at Heidi, who shook her head and said nothing.


“PIZZA!” she suddenly said as the front doorbell rang, and she went out, returning a few minutes later with several boxes, the contents of which we soon consumed.


“So just how tightly have you been tied,” Fi said as she swallowed a bite of pepperoni.


“Want to find out,” I said as I looked at the others.  “Do you think she could cope with the full job?”


“Only one way to find out,” Cindy said as she stood up and left the room, returning with a box of supplies.


“Challenge – Accepted,” Fi said, “how do we start?”


“With you holding these,” I said as I passed her two sponges.  “Makes fists with these, and then we cover your fists in duct tape.”


As Fi held the sponges, Natalie covered her fists with the tape, before Cindy pulled a pair of sports socks over her arms, and then taped them to her arms so they stayed in place.


“Very clever,” Fi said as I crossed her wrists behind her back and tied them tightly together, and then tied them to her back with the rope around her waist.


“How old are you, Fi?”


“Thirteen – why?”


“Do you think she needs both bands of rope?”


“Yeah,” Jannifer said, “I want to see what she thinks of it.”


So Alice and Jannifer took a length of rope each and tied her arms to her side, Jannifer below her chest and Alice round her shoulders, before they used shorter lengths under her arms to tighten the bands.


“Oh my,” Fi said as she walked around, “that does feel – different.”


“In what way,” I asked as I looked at her.


“Oh it’s secure, and it’s not uncomfortable, in fact…”  She bit her lower lip and said “I don’t quite know how to describe it.”


“None of us really do,” Heidi said as she helped the young girl to sit down.  “Right – ankles and knees next.”


She watched as Heidi and Cindy tied her ankles tightly together, as well as her legs below her knees, the rope going between her legs as well.


“So far so good,” she said with a smile, “what’s next?”


“The gag,” I said quietly, “and we’re going all out with this one.  Jannifer, stage one.”


“Open wide,” Jannifer said as she held a folded cloth in front of Fi’s mouth, pushing it in before Natalie pulled a knotted strip of towelling between her lips, Fi closing them over it as she tied the ends tightly at the base of her neck.


“Thtsnttsbd,” she mumbled, but then she heard the sound of Cindy tearing free the end of a roll of micropore tape, as she wound it round her head several times, covering the towelling and sealing her mouth further.


“Lrrrtttthsgd” she then said, but her eyes widened as Alice folded a blue bandana, and tied that tightly over the band of tape, the knot at the base of her neck.  Finally, Heidi took one of her mother’s large scarves, folded it into a triangle, and tied it over Fi’s hair and head, the ends knotted neatly under her chin.


All that was coming out now was a low whimper as I helped her to lie on the floor, pulled her ankles back so that her heels were touching her bottom, and tied them to her chest ropes.


“There you go, Fi,” Heidi said as we sat back, “the full works.  Just as good as when Chloe really gets going, right?”


Fi could do little more than nod as she wriggled on the floor, and by the look on her face she was wondering if she was in too vulnerable a position.


“Relax, kiddo,” Natalie said, “No tickling – yet.  See if you can get even a little bit free, however.”


We all watched as Fi struggled, and then shrugged her shoulders as Alice said “Giving up all ready?  I could get out of that, you know?”




“Uh oh,” she said quietly as she saw all of us descending upon her, and fifteen minutes later she was on the floor next to Fi, her bare feet ready for the tickle torture.


“You’re mine,” Natalie said as she started to tickle Alice’s bare soles, and I started to tickle Fi.  As they screamed into their gags and struggled, the other girls joined in, attacking their sides and the back of their knees.


Eventually, I sat back and said “all right – I think we need to let them catch their breath.”


“Agreed,” Natalie said as she smacked Alice’s bottom, earning her a funny look from her fellow gymnast.  As we sat back and looked at them, Jannifer’s phone pinged to say she had a message.  She picked it up and looked at it, before she burst out laughing.


“What is it,” I said as I looked at her.


“Tell me,” Jannifer said as she looked at me, “Charlie in the habit of tying his sister up as well?”


“You could say that – why?”


“Take a look at this,” she said as she passed me her phone.  There was a picture there of Lisa, Britney and Margo waving at the camera, but that was not the main thing to see.


Charlie and Freddie were sitting in two dining chairs, tied tightly to the seats with ropes around their chests, their ankles tied to the front legs of the chairs.  Their mouths were covered with tape, and there was a look of revenge in their eyes.


“OH my god,” Heidi laughed when she looked at it, “I knew they had it in them, but Lisa?”


“Lisa has been spending time with Cassie, brushing up her skills,” I said with a smile, “so it doesn’t surprise me too much.  I’d be amazed if they stay triumphant for too long, however.


“We’d better untie these two – give them a chance to collect themselves.”




Once Fi and Alice had – shall we say, recovered, Cindy suggested a game of Spin the Bottle.  Not a game I was overtly familiar with, but when I heard the words “Truth or Dare” I knew what was involved.


“I’ll go first, youngest and all that,” Fi said as she spun the coke bottle round, the open end pointing at Cindy.


“I’ll take Dare for one hundred dollars, Bob,” Cindy said as she looked round the room.


“I dare you,” Fiona said with a smile, “to kiss one of the girls on the lips.”


Cindy looked round the room, and then stood up, walking over and kissing Fi firmly on her lips.


“You dare it, you take it,” Cindy said quietly as she spun the bottle, the open neck pointing to Alice.


“Truth Alice – do you have a crush on someone?”


Alice actually blushed at this point, and said “Yeah – I do have a bit of a crush on someone, and I think they feel the same way about me.”


“Really?  Who is it,” Jannifer said, but Alice just smiled and spun the bottle around, the open neck pointing this time at Natalie.


“Oh boy – why do I sense a dare coming,” she said as she rolled her eyes.


“Oh yes – and you’ll like it.  I dare you to eat a bowl of ice cream – with your hands tied behind your back in a reverse prayer.”


“What’s that,” I asked innocently.


“My arms are bent behind me and my wrists tied with my hands back to back – a test of flexibility Elena likes to put the senior squad through,” Natalie said as she did just that – moved her arms behind her back and put her hands back to back between her shoulder blades, Alice tying them together and then taking the rope around her upper body under her chest while Heidi went to fetch some ice cream.  As she returned with a bowl – and a cloth – she placed it on the floor and said “on you go Nats – eat it all up.”


We all then watched as Natalie leaned over and started to eat the ice cream with her mouth, the food getting all over it, but she managed to eat most o fit before she went “AAAHHHH  BRAIN FREEZE” and straightened up, looking at us.


“Not bad,” Alice said as Cindy wiped her friend’s mouth.


“Alicia – do me a favour and spin the flaming thing, will you,” Natalie said, so I span the bottle and it stopped in front of Fi.


“All right young lady,” Nats said as she looked at her, “truth time – when you went with us on the trip to Washington, did you really have no idea of the sort of games we play?”


“Oh yeah – what happened there?”


“Young Fi surprised us all by tying and gagging herself, only for us to discover her,” Cindy said.


“Honestly and truthfully, I had no idea,” Fi said.  “I mean, I knew about the escapology club, and that some of you were members, but I really had no idea.  Mind you, after we went away a couple of weeks ago, I see all of you are into it – the mums and aunts as well.”


She looked off into the distance for a moment, and then said “My folks can be a bit distant, and appear as if they don’t have time for me, but they really do.  They just have a hard time seeing what I need – and you guys give me a chance to do that, so thank you, all of you.”


“Hey – our pleasure,” Heidi said as she and Cindy hugged the young girl, before she said “right – my turn to spin the bottle.”


“Want us to untie you,” I asked Nats, but she shook her head and sat next to Alice as the bottle slowly went round, and ended up pointing at me.


“All right then,” Fi said, “I’ve heard a lot about your skills Alicia – I dare you to let Heidi and Cindy tie you in a way you’ve never been tied before.”


“And what would that be,” I said as I looked at both of them.  They exchanged a glance and nodded as they each picked up a roll of duct tape and walked over…


“Now then,” Heidi said quietly, “stand up and put your hands by your side.”


“Why,” I said as I watched them rip the ends loose from the tape, “what are you going to do?”


“Watch,” Cindy said as she stuck the end of the tape against my left wrist, and then wound it down my body, covering my hands and then my legs.  As she did so, Heidi stuck the end of the other roll to my right wrist, and then started to work up.


It only took about ten minutes, but by the time it was done I was covered in a silver sheath from neck to ankles, and could hardly move at all.


“Oh my goodness, this is mummification,” I said as Alice and Jannifer lay me on my side on the couch.


“Why so it is,” Heidi said as she looked at my bare feet, “and this is my spare electric toothbrush.”


“Your spare…. Oh no, don’t you DareeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”


Now, I have found myself over the last few years in many situations where I haven’t been able to stop people doing things with me, some by choice, some not – but believe me, encased in silver tape as a running electric toothbrush is run over the soles of my feet?  A totally new one on me.


“Now,” Heidi said, “unless you want us to continue tell us what’s happening with the other girls.  How about Suzie – found someone yet?”


“Yeah – yeah, Brian, Colin’s cousin.”


“How fascinating – and what about her other friends?”




“Sorry,” Cindy said, “hand slipped.”


“And your Aunt Susan is expecting?”


“So is Connie Craig – any time now I think.”


“Good, good – any other gossip you might want to tell us about?”


I looked at them, wondering what I could possibly say without getting myself into even more trouble.


“Well, I suppose there is Angela’s engagement to Mary’s brother…”


“WHAT!!!  Tell us more!!”


So I did, which at least got them to switch off the toothbrush.  What I didn’t notice at first was that Alice had brought out a small black case, and was starting to put some make up on, as she listened to the story.


“Hey,” Nats said as she looked over, “What are you up to?”


“Practising,” Alice said, “because we now have a model to work on as well.”


“You…  Oh no, what are you thinking of doing now?”


“Nothing much,” Cindy said as she put a cotton band over my head to hold my hair back, “just a little makeover for you…”





“There,” Cindy said as they finally stepped back, “definitely a new look for you Ali.”


“I shudder to think – all right, let me see.”


Fi picked up a mirror and held it in front of my face – and you know what?  It wasn’t that bad – some light blue eye shadow, and a light red lipstick, with mascara on my eye lashes and a little powder on my cheeks.


“Do you know how worried I was about this,” I said as I looked at them.


“Hey – I’m not one of the twins,” Jannifer said as she untied Natalie’s arms.  “Anyway, someone get a pair of scissors and cut her free.  It’s time for hot chocolate.”


“Sounds good,” I said as I stretched out.  “So where are you girls sleeping tonight?”


“Sleep?  Who said anything about sleep?”


Rolling my eyes, I made my excuses and went to the toilet.  This was going to be a long night…








“Well well – what do we have here?”


I opened my eyes to see Uncle Alex looking at me, Dorothy behind him.  Stretching I looked at the others, sitting in the chairs and still asleep.


“A bunch of girls sleeping over,” I said as I went to rub my eyes – and then remembered the makeup.


“Typical sleepover, in other words,” Dorothy said with a smile.  “Why don’t you go and get cleaned up – we’ll let this lot sleep while we make breakfast.”


I nodded and made my way up the stairs, Uncle Alex saying “If I have another daughter, heaven help me” while I did so.


By the time I’d come back down, dressed in a pair of shorts and a blouse, Heidi and Cindy had started tidying up, while the others got changed.  So I helped them to clear the front room up before we all sat down to breakfast.


“You girls need to head back to your places and clean up before the party this afternoon,” Dorothy said as she looked at them, “after all, it is part of their big day.”


“We will,” they all said before they set off, Fi going with Natalie.


“So where is this party,” I asked when we were alone.


“At the home of Heather Reid – Natalie’s aunt.  You’ll like her,” Dorothy said, “she’s an artist, but the complete opposite of Natalie’s mother.”


“Which one?”


Amy and Dorothy looked at me as I said “I know Veronica is Nat’s biological mother, so…”


“OH – both of them actually,” Amy said with a  smile, “you’ll see…”





“Wow,” I said as we drove up to the front of the large farmhouse, “she does have a big place.”


We got out of the car to see a woman walking round the side, wiping her hands.  She was wearing an old pair of blue denim dungarees, one strap hanging down the front, and a dirty t-shirt, and I noticed her bare feet.


“Hey,” she said as she walked over, her light brown hair falling over her head, “thanks for coming up early and helping to set up.  I had to get this piece finished for the film crew today.”


“Heather builds props for films as part of her work,” Heidi whispered as she came over.  “So this is Alicia Bowden, and Alexander Holderness – hi, I’m Heather Reid.”


“Pleasure,” Uncle Alex said as he kissed her on both cheeks, “anyone else here yet?”


“The sisters of mercy arrived a few minutes ago – come away in, they’re making coffee.”  We walked round the house and into a large old fashioned kitchen, where two women were standing.


“Hey Anne, Hey Sue,” I said as they turned round, one slightly taller than the other with blonde hair, the other with dark hair.


“Well, if it isn’t two more of the godparents,” Anne Duncombe said with a smile.  “Come in, coffee’s freshly made – but shoes off first.”


“Heather does not allow anyone to wear shoes in the house,” Cindy said as I slipped off my loafers.  “In fact, if she had her way, nobody would wear shoes anywhere on the farm.”


“Well, it’s more fun barefoot,” Heather said as she washed her hands and then dried them.  “So, let’s drink some coffee, and then I’ll tell you what we need to do.”


“Can I take Alicia down to the water hole while you do the work, Heather?”


“Sure – but don’t be too long.  The guests will start arriving soon.”


So we had a drink, and then Heidi and Cindy took me down a path through the woods, ending up by a small pool with a river running in one end and out the other.


“We’ve had a few interesting times here,” Heidi said as we sat on the grass by the water’s edge.  “Ali, there’s a couple of things we need to tell you.  First up, we know about Sarah.”


“You do?  How did you…”


“She saved us last year from a very nasty situation – your sister and grandmother flew out last November to spend time with us, remember?  Well, Sarah saved us that time – and we’ve seen what both she and Brian can do.”


“Well, at least that makes things a little easier – do all the others know?”


Cindy nodded as she tossed a stone into the water.  “Fi’s the only one who doesn’t, but she’s not coming today.  So I guess mum’s the word when she’s around.”


“You’re also going to meet Nat’s grandmother Bobbi – she’s nice.”


“I’m struck how different Heather is from Katherine.”


“Yeah  - we’d better head back, the others will be starting to arrive now.”





When we got back to the house, we saw Alice and Jannifer had arrived with their parents.


“Ali, come and meet my dad,” Alice said as she dragged me over.  “Dad, this is Alicia Bowden, Alicia my dad.”


“Very nice to meet you Mister Hawkins,” I said as he shook my hand.


“Call me Jack,” he said with a smile, “so where are the guests of honour?”


“On their way,” Anne said as she moved around the burning charcoal on the fire.  “Any chance of a beer?”


“There you go,” Jack said as he tossed a can over, Anne catching it and saluting as she did so.


“Dad’s a police detective,” Alice said as she put her arm in mine and led me off.  Jannifer and the twins were talking to Dorothy, while her mum and dad talked to Heather.


“So where’s this mysterious Lisa and Charlie,” she said as we joined Natalie.  All of us were wearing shorts and either blouses or tank tops, and barefoot.


“Coming right now,” I said as a second hire car drew up, and Lisa and Charlie got out with their parents.


“Well, I guess we have the right house,” Lisa said as she walked over.  She was dressed in the same way as us, while Charlie was wearing a polo shirt and jeans.


“Welcome,” Heather said as she came round, “you must be the Williamsons.  I’m Heather Reid, your host for today.”


“Thanks for the directions,” Mrs Williamson said, “we’d never have found this place otherwise.  I’m Yvonne, and this is my husband Mark.”


“Come on round,” she said as we led them round to the back yard.  “Everyone, these are the Williamsons.”


“You made it,” Blossom said as she hugged Yvonne.


“So how did you lot manage to get the better of Charlie last night,” I whispered into Lisa’s ear.


“I’ll tell you later, but trust me, I’m going to pay for it at some time,” Lisa said with a wicked grin, before we went and joined the others.


“Am I the only boy here,” Charlie said as he looked round.


“Maybe,” Uncle Alex replied, “but it means you’re one of the men, so you get to help work the barbecue.”


“Works for me,” I said as we all heard a car pull up outside, and then saw Brian and Sarah walk round, each carrying a car seat.


“Hey – who started the Barbie,” Brian asked.


“Today, you do not touch that,” Heather said as she walked forward, “because you are the guests.  Now put those gorgeous twins down and let us have a look.”


“Well, if you insist,” Sarah said as they placed the car seats on a bench, and I bent down to have a look at them.  Bart was wearing a little blue bib shorts set over a white top, while Sarah had on a pink dress and a little bow on her hair.  They’d already grown a lot since I had last seen them, and I let then grab one of my fingers and said “Hello you two – looking forward to tomorrow?”


“I think they are,” Sarah whispered as she looked at me.  “How are you Alicia?”


“I’m fine.”


“And your grandfather?”


“Recovering – they both send their love, and hope you understand why they can’t be here.”


“He had a heart attack, Alicia – of course I understand why they can’t be here.”


“Brian, I told you – keep away from the barbecue unless it’s to get food for you or Sarah,” I heard Jack say as he shooed Brian away.


“I’m curious – why ask Lisa and Charlie’s parents to be godparents as well?”


“Oh, we have our reasons,” Sarah said with a smile as I saw Chloe and James arrive.


“Hey you two,” Heidi said as she went to hug them, “how did it go telling your parents?”


“Mine are delighted,” James said, “as for Chloe’s…”


“They are shocked, I think is the correct phase, but they are coming to visit in the near future, so it will go well after that,” Chloe said as we hugged each other.  “How is Angela, mon cherie?”


“Getting ready for University – she got the grades she needed, and starts at Oxford Brookes in a few weeks.”


“That is wonderful news – and will that not leave you the oldest in the house?  With more babysitting duties?”


“Do not remind me – although it does allow Martin to come round on those nights,” I said with a smile.


“So you see, as you say, every cloud has a silver lining,” Chloe said as Sue came over.


“Mind if I borrow you two for a minute,” she said as she took Chloe and James to one side, while Heidi came over next to me.


“Come on – Nats and I will give you the tour of the place while the others talk.”


We walked across the farmyard and into one of the barns, as I looked round at the various pieces of artwork in the open place.


“Aunt Heather is an artist as well as a designer,” Natalie said, “some of her sculptures are in the town park.  She likes to live out here rather than town – thinks it helps her creative thinking.”


“I can see why – is this a prop for a film?”


“It is,” Heather said as she looked at what seemed to be an iron bedstead, with four manacles attached to it, one to each corner.  “She specialises in things like this.”


“Looks like it can hold one of us,” I said as I looked at it.


“It can – I spent a day secured to that to test it was fit for purpose,” Natalie said with a smile.


“Intriguing, and silenced as well?”


“Oh very much so,” Nats said with a wink as she took me through to another barn, which was Heather’s workshop.  From there, we went round and through her vegetable garden, and then back into the house.


“Let me show you her thinking room,” Nats said as we walked into a small room, with three poles reaching from floor to ceiling.


“This is her thinking room – why?”


“Because we spend time in here unable to do much more than think,” Nats said as she did a handstand and then wrapped her legs round the pole, holding herself up as she looked at me and Heidi.


“You got tied to the pole like that?”


“Not intentionally – but Heidi and friends thought it might be a good idea…”


“To be fair,” Heidi replied, “it was Alice who said it might be a good idea, and you went along with it.”


“Err – guys,” Cindy said as she looked in the door, “we kind of need you out here.  Charlie has Lisa and the twins getting ready for a race.”


“Charlie has… Uh oh,” I said as we went out, to find Lisa, Britney and Margo standing in a line while Charlie tied their ankles tightly together.  Their legs were already secured below their knees, their hands tied behind their back, and rope holding their arms to their sides, while bands of tape covered their mouths.


“He said he got the idea from being forced to watch a DVD by these three last night – something about a race?”


“Oh yeah – a race across the grass and back.  We do this at the manor house from time to time,” I said as we watched Uncle Alex and Brian help them get into a line, before the start was given.


Now I know Lisa is fairly fast, but she was soon left behind by the twins as they jumped across the lawn.


“Have they been practising,” I whispered to Jannifer, who nodded as they turned and won the race with ease.


“Well done you two,” Blossom said as she hugged them, before Charlie said “Now, for the older girls, how does an escape challenge sound?”


“We looked at each other, and then shrugged as blankets were laid out on the ground, while Chloe, Veronica and Anne started to bind our wrists behind our back.


“Did Freddie not come today,” I said as I looked at Jannifer.


“Nah – he said he and his mom had some things they needed to do.  They’re moving house soon,” she replied as we felt rope holding our arms against our sides, as well as around our waists.


“Each of you gets to lie down on a blanket,” Sarah said as we sat ourselves down, watching as our ankles and then our legs were bound together, before clean cloths were put in our mouths and white tape wrapped round our heads.


“Now for the extra twist,” Uncle Alex said, and before we could give anything by way of a muffled protest each of us was blindfolded with a folded scarf, before we were helped to lie down and place in a hogtie, my fingers brushing over the heels of my bare feet.


“Now, the rules are simple,” I heard Heather say, “first person to get free wins.  You may begin.”


I clamed myself down, especially as I could hear some of the others giggling as they struggled, and reviewed the situation.  No way I could get free without finding some way to release my ankles from the rope around my chest – and to do that, I needed to be able to see, so I concentrated first on rubbing the side of my head on the blanket I was lying on, trying to start to dislodge the blindfold.


It took a while, but eventually and with a little rug burn on my cheek I managed to get the scarf away from my eyes, and have a look round.  Heidi, Natalie and Alice were just lying still, apparently enjoying the experience, while Cindy and Jannifer had rolled over back to back and were trying to help each other.


As I looked to the other side, she saw a small hoop sticking out of the ground, and an idea came to me.  I shuffled myself over until I could get a grip on the ring with one hand, and then started to try and ease it out with my fingers.  Fortunately, the ground was soft, and it came out fairly easily, as I turned it in my hand and started to use the prong to try and loosen the ropes at my wrists.


“Interesting – very interesting,” I heard Anne say, and then I realised that some of the adults were watching me.  I put that to the back of my mind, however, and concentrated on the rope at my wrists, nodding as I felt it start to slacken and then come undone, allowing me to slowly stretch my legs out as I caught my breath.


Rolling over and sitting myself up, I could see that Cindy and Jannifer had almost managed to release each other from their ties, so I concentrated on using the spike to try and free my wrists.  Again, it took some time, but eventually I managed to get one wrists out, and then the other, leaving the ropes hanging behind me as I picked at the rope holding my arms to my side.


After I had my arms loose enough to wriggle them out, I was able to untie my legs, and remove the tape band and cloth, standing up and shouting “YES!!” as the adults all applauded.


“Well done, Ali,” Uncle Alex said as he hugged me, “now come and have a drink – you’ve earned it.”


Cindy and Jannifer were soon free as well, the three of us sitting and watching the others to see if they were ever going to get free.


“Tell you what,” Heather said after a while, “you three come and give me a hand with the salads in the kitchen – I think they’re settled for the afternoon.  We need to go and get some vegetables from the garden first though, so grab a basket and follow me.”


We went to the kitchen door and collected a wicker basket, then followed Heather to her vegetable garden.


“Right,” she said as she handed me a small knife, “Alicia, you cut a couple of the lettuce free and bring them over.  Pick different types, so we can mix the salads.  Cindy, can you get some radishes and carrots up for me, while Jan and I go to the greenhouse and pick some peppers and cucumbers?”


“You got it,” Cindy said as I looked down the rows of lettuces, and cut four from the roots, placing them in the basket.


“Are those fresh herbs I see over there,” I said as I looked at Cindy.


“Yeah – if you can work out which are suitable for a salad, cut some as well?”


I soon had some parsley, tarragon and chives in the basket as well, as Cindy put some large orange and yellow carrots and some radishes into hers.  Heather came back, carrying a third basket with peppers and cucumbers, and said “Great – to the kitchen!”


As we walked in, Anne and Sue were sitting at the table.


“Oops – interrupting work talk,” Heather said as we put the baskets by the sink.


“Nah – we’re good, and we wanted to help with the salads anyway,” Sue said with a smile.


“Hang on, Sue Duncombe, cook?  According to your sister you live on microwave meals and take out.”


“Only when I’m on the job, and I’m off the clock now,” Sue said as she stood up.  “Besides, those girls should be outside having fun, not stuck in here.”


“Fair enough – get going,” Heather said as we went outside.  Heidi, Natalie and Alice were still lying on the ground, on their sides now, and if I listened carefully I could hear the sound of gentle snoring from Heidi.


“Yeah, they fell asleep,” Amy said as the three of us sat with Lisa.


“So, come on,” Jannifer said as she opened a can of soft drink, “how did you manage to get Freddie and your brother tied to the chairs last night?”


“In the oldest way possible – we dared them,” Lisa said as she looked at her mother and father, talking to Jack Hawkins and Kurt Dale.  “We said we could tie them to the chairs and shut them up so that they could not get free, and they accepted the challenge.”


She smiled serenely as she said “Charlie doesn’t know I’ve been practising a lot with Cassie recently, so when I bet him I could stop him and Freddie moving for an hour, he accepted.  Silly of him, really.”


I smiled at that.  “Good for you Lisa – but he will want payback at some point?”


“Oh I know that – but he’s promised to wait until we get home.  I think he’s planning something big for when the five of us start at school.”


“First day relaxer?”


“Something like that – talking of which, where is Charlie?”


“Charlie?  He went into the house with your mum, his mum and the twins.”


We looked at each other with but one thought in mind, and stood up, walking into the house and into the room I had been in with Heidi and Natalie earlier.


Britney and Margo were sat back to back, their arms linked and their wrists tied together in front of their tummies, then tied to rope around their ankles.


Mrs Williamson and Mrs Dale were each sitting against one of the poles, their legs bent and ropes holding them in place around their bodies.  We could see the rope around their ankles, as well as the way their arms were wrapped around the pole. 


All four had knotted scarves tied in their mouths, and all four were looking at us as if they were looking at who was responsible.


“OH boy,” Jannifer said, “where is he?”


“Right here – good work Sis.  You can help me secure them now.”


“Lisa?  You’re in on this?”


“I told you I’d have to pay a price for last night,” Lisa said with a shrug of her shoulders, “and this is it.  Ready?”


I sighed as I put my hands behind my back, Cindy and Jannifer doing likewise as we felt the familiar ropes being wrapped around them by Charlie and Lisa.  Lisa worked on me, and it was evident she had picked up a few tricks from Cassie and the others.


Ten minutes later, we were sitting against the wall, wrists and arms secured, ankles crossed and tied, and legs secured, as we opened our mouths to allow the two youngsters to tie knotted bandanas in our mouths as well.


“Right,” Charlie said, “now let’s see if we can get some of the others in here.”


The two of them walked out, leaving us to look at each other.


“Gssutecntmf,” Jannifer said as she looked at the twins, who both nodded.


“Whtbttumssswllmsn,” I said as I looked over at Lisa and Charlie’s mum.  She looked back at me, and then started to work her jaw, Blossom turning to watch as she pushed the knot out of her mouth and let the wet scarf hang around her neck.


“She still has a lot to learn,” Mrs Williamson said as she looked over at me.   “And don’t tell me you can’t work that knot out of your mouth, Alicia Bowden.  Something tells me you can.”


It only took me a few minutes to push the knot out, Cindy following suit, and then I said “Time to pick knots?”


“Time to pick knots.  If you can get each other free, then me and Blossom, we can keep an eye out while you free the others.”


“Turn your back to me,” Cindy said as she got on her knees, “I’m getting really good at this now.”


And she had too – she had my wrists free within five minutes, and ten minutes after that we were working on the two mothers.


“Right,” Mrs Williamson said as she stood up, “you two free the other girls.  Blossom, want to help me get my own back?”


“I thought you’d never ask,” was the reply as they both went over to the door, while we got to work on Jannifer and the twins.


“Thanks,” Britney said as she rubbed her wrists, “Lisa and Charlie can be real sneaky when they want to be.  They said they wanted to prank mom, so tied us up, and then tied our mothers up.”


“Well, I suspect they…”


Mrs Williamson put her finger to her lips as she stood by the door, and then we heard Charlie as he approached.


“We’ll get them later,” he said as he opened the door and came in, “right now let’s…”


He was cut off as his mother grabbed him and put her hand over his mouth, stopping him from alerting Lisa to the ‘danger’ before she came in and was caught by Blossom.


“Well now,” Mrs Williamson said quietly as I closed the door, “I believe you two know the rules.  If I manage to get free after one of you does that to me, what happens?”


“Wgttarwd,” Lisa mumbled from under Blossom’s hand.


“Cute – but you know that’s not true.  You both have to do what we did – so, on the floor, hands behind your back, and say ah.”


“Oh boy – I should never have listened to you,” Lisa said as she lay down, allowing Blossom to cross and bind her wrists behind her back.


“You know you can’t resist a challenge,” Charlie said as his mother bound his wrists, and then his ankles and legs, Lisa getting the same treatment before they were sat back to back, rope tied around their waists and their upper arms to hold them together.


“You haven’t said Ah yet,” Blossom said as she picked up the knotted scarf that had been in her mouth, and used it on Charlie, before Mrs Williamson gagged Lisa with hers.


“Uknwwtwnttklngtscpths,” Charlie said as he wriggled round.


“Maybe, but we’re going to go out and see if the food is ready – so the longer you take, the later you eat.  Sound fair?”


“Spsss” Lisa said as Mrs Williamson kissed them both on the head.


“Good – don’t take too long,” she said as she shooed us out of the room.


“Are they that good,” Jannifer whispered as we went outside.


“Oh they are,” I whispered back as Jack Hawkins called out “right – who wants some steak?”


I hung back a bit to allow the real carnivores – including Uncle Alex – to get theirs first, before I claimed a chicken leg and put some of the salads the others had prepared on my plate.


Sitting at one of the tables, I was soon joined by Heidi and Cindy.


“I hear the terrible duo managed to get the better of you,” Heidi said with a laugh.


“Not really – I mean Charlie’s good, but I’ve had more practice,” I said with a smile as I saw them coming out, grabbing a plate and helping themselves to some food.


“So what have you bought them as a christening present,” Cindy asked.  “We got them some clothes.”


“It’s a secret – you’ll see tomorrow,” I said with a smile.


“Listen – I know you’re heading back Monday, and tomorrow is a busy day with the christening and all.  Are you up for a challenge tonight – alongside me and Cindy?”


“Depends on what the challenge is,” I said with a smile.


“Well, we know you’ve spent the night asleep, tied and gagged, quite a few times – want to do it again tonight?”


“So long as we get woken up in time, sure – what have you got in mind?”


“You’ll see,” Heidi said with the most innocent of smiles, “you’ll see…”


“Folks,” Anne said as she stood up, “I want to propose a toast – so pop a fresh can, open a new bottle, fill up your glass, and do whatever it takes.


“I’ve known Sarah for a long time now – and Brian for not quite so long a time – and nobody was happier than me that they met, fell in love, married – and now have two gorgeous children to care for and protect.  I ask you now to drink to the health of the babies, and of the happy family.”


“The Family,” we all called out as we took a drink, and then fell into the serious business of eating.






“I am popped,” Cindy said as we sat in their front room, drinking cocoa after we had changed into pyjamas.


“Are you three sure you want to do this tonight,” Uncle Alex said as he sat opposite with Amy and Dorothy.


“We’re sure,” Heidi said, “so long as we get woken up in time to get ready before Sarah and the family get here.”


“All right then,” Dorothy said, “once you’ve finished your drink, go upstairs, do what you need to do, and then we’ll come up to your rooms.”


We nodded as we finished our drinks, and headed up.  A few minutes later, Uncle Alex came into my room, carrying the things he needed with him.


“Right then,” he said as he handed me a pair of fingerless mittens, “apparently they prefer to use these as opposed to socks.”


I nodded as I pulled them on, and looked at my hands.  “I thought only Andrew and the other babies wore something like this,” I said with a smile.


“Well, I can see why – cross your wrists in front of you and stand still.”


I stood up and watched as he tied my wrists tightly together, and then took the rope around my waist to hold them against my front.


“Now,” he said as he took a long length of rope, and doubled it over, “Amy and Dorothy say you are to be tied the same way as the other two.  I know your mum and the other mothers laid down a certain rule – if I do this, promise not to tell them?”


I knew why he was saying this, so I nodded and said “promise – I won’t tell.”


“Good – turn round then.”


I did so and watched the rope as Uncle Alex passed it around my arms under my chest, and then took it round several times more, above and below my chest, that maddening feeling get as they pressed down returning in full.


“Uncle Alex?”


“Hmmm,” he said as he tied the rope off in front of me.


“Do you ever do this to Aunt Susan?”


He turned me round and looked at me before he sat me down.  “I may have done, but as I suspect you are discovering, that is a matter between me and your aunt as to why and how she feels when I do it.”


“Not the right person to talk to about how it makes me feel then?”


“You should talk to your mother about it – do you wish to remain like this?”


“Yeah – that’s the challenge after all.”


“Good,” he said as he sat down and pulled the bedsocks I was wearing up, before he tied my ankles tightly together, and then my legs below my knees.


“Right – time for you to be quiet as they are.”  He held up a folded cloth and then pushed it gently into my mouth, before he pressed a strip of white tape over my lips.  He then pushed a pair of earplugs into place, cutting out almost all the sound, before he made sure the black sleepmask was covering my eyes.


I felt him lifting me up and laying me down, my head on the pillow, but after that I had no idea if he stayed around, or left.  As it was, I soon fell into a deep sleep…





I was walking along the side of the lake, Dad by my side, and we were arm in arm.  As I looked at him, he was wearing a grey morning suit, a pale blue shirt and a pink tie.


I looked down and saw the white skirt, and the train of my dress flowing behind me, as we approached some chairs that had been set out in the sunshine.   All the family were there, turning and looking at me as I passed up a centre aisle.  In front of me I suddenly realised was a young girl, who looked a lot like me, wearing a white slip dress and carrying a bunch of flowers – and then I saw the bunch in my own hand.


I could see Colin and Jenny, Bobby and Cassie, and all the others sitting in the seats, and then Mum, crying a little as she sat next to my grandparents.


And standing at the front was Martin, the broadest of smiles on his face as he stepped forward and joined me in front of the minister.


It was the happiest day of my life as the service started, and then I heard the minister say “I now pronounce you man and wife.”


There was cheering and clapping behind me as I felt myself blush, and then the minister said “You may kiss the bride.”


I turned to face Martin as he slowly lifted the veil over my face, and whispered “hello Mrs Davies” as he leaned over and we kissed – a beautiful, soft kiss as the clapping and cheering continued.


And then we turned and walked between the chairs, man and wife, as the sun blinded me slightly and I had to blink…





“Good morning,” Amy said as I blinked and saw her standing there.  “It’s time for you to get up and ready.”


“Sttmrngnglrddee,” I mumbled as she started to untie my arms and then peeled the tape away from my mouth.  I pushed the wet cloth out with my tongue, and said “stupid question – of course it is.  What time?”


“Seven,” Amy said as she sat me up and I removed the gloves.  “Dorothy is waking Cindy, and I’ll take care of Heidi in a minute.  When you’ve done whatever you need to do, come down and we’ll have breakfast before Sarah and the others get here.”


I nodded and untied my legs as Amy went out, and then walked to the bathroom, still remembering the dream.





“Hey,” Dorothy said as Brian opened the door, and Sarah came in with Bart and little Sarah, “you made good time this morning.”


“Well, the road was clear,” Brian said as we went through to the front room, the twins in their car seats on the floor as Sarah sat down and played with them.  “I’ll take some coffee if there is some ready.”


“Me too,” Sarah said quietly, “I could do with the boost.”


“Were they up early?”


“No – we just got to bed late,” Sarah said as she accepted the mug.


“Uncle Alex, is this the right time…”


“I think it is,” he said as he went to the room he was sleeping in, coming back with two boxes.


“Is that what I think it is,” Sarah said as he handed her the first box.


“It is – Mum and Dad said you knew these were coming,” he said as she opened the box and took out two gowns, one pale blue and the other a light pink.  “But this is the real gift from them.”


He handed over the second box, Brian opening it and revealing what you could call a baby gym – as well as a day pass for a spa near Holderness.


“Something for everyone – except the dad,” Brian said with a smile. “Quite right.”


“They’re the stars of today, and don’t you forget it,” Amy said.  “You three – showers and changed.  We have some adult talk to conduct.”


“Come on,” Cindy said as we stood up, “I guess that’s them telling us they’ll follow.”


A short while later, I walked back down the stairs, adjusting the cuffs on the floral print dress I was wearing.  It came down to my knees, and I was wearing a new set of tights with black heels on my feet.


I walked into the front room to see Cindy playing with the twins.  She was wearing a long sleeved blouse with a high collar, under a black denim pinafore dress, white socks and flat shoes.  “Sunday clothes,” she said as she looked at me, before Heidi came in, wearing a pastel blue pair of trousers and a sleeveless cream blouse.


“Jacket’s outside,” she said as the three of us took turns to let Bart and Sarah grab our fingers, Sarah and Brian coming in and watching.  Brian was wearing a dark suit, shirt and tie, while Sarah was wearing a grey and dusky pink dress and grey shoes.


Uncle Alex came in next, wearing a suit as well, and then Amy and Dorothy came in.  Dorothy was dressed in the same way as Cindy, but in a grey dress, while Amy was wearing a blue coat dress with a silver belt around her waist and white shoes.


“We just need to get these two ready,” Sarah said as she and Dorothy picked up the twins, “and then we’ll be on our way.”


“It’s a fifteen minute drive to the church,” Amy said, “and everyone’s coming back here afterwards for an all in lunch.”


“What’s an all in lunch?”


“Bring and share,” Uncle Alex said.  “So anything literally goes…”




The church was as I remembered it from the last visit – a white building, with a simple cross at the top of the roof to the front.  As we pulled up, I saw Anne and Kayla waiting in the car park, both wearing white dresses.


“How are they feeling,” Anne said as we got out, “and where did the gowns come from?”


“Their honorary grandparents,” Sarah said with a smile as Anne took Bart, and Kayla little Sarah, and we made our way into the church.


Chloe and James were in the entrance area, talking to Alice’s parents.  Jack Hawkins shook Brian’s hand and then Bart’s finger as he said “ready for your big day, young man?”


Chloe was, very unusually for her, wearing an open necked red dress and heels, while James looked distinctively uncomfortable in his shirt and tie.


“Sarah, Brian,” the minister said as he came forward, “welcome – and these are the little darlings are they?”


“They are indeed,” Sarah said with a smile, “colour coded for convenience.”


“Some traditions die hard,” he said with a smile.  “Would you and the godparents come to the front with me please?”


We walked through what was becoming a packed church, and I smiled as Jannifer waved at me.  She was sitting with her family, as was Natalie, and Veronica was there with Sue Duncombe, grinning broadly.


Even Fi was there, sitting with her parents who looked even more uncomfortable than James.


Anyway, we all sat down as the minister came to the front, and the service started, the knot starting to tighten in my stomach as it did so.


Eventually, the minister said, “And now we come to the time where we welcome these two children into the body of Christ.  Could the parents and Godparents stand please?”


Sarah cradled little Sarah in her arms, Bart in Brian’s as we stood.


“Sarah and Brian, do you present these children to  be christened?”


“We do,” they both said.


“I ask of the parents and godparents these questions.  Will you be responsible for seeing that these children will be brought up in the Christian faith and life?”


“With God’s help, we will,” we all replied.


“Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?”


“With God’s help, we will.”


“And again I ask of the parents and godparents, do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?”


“We renounce them.”


“Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?”


“We renounce them.”


“Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?”


“We renounce them.”


I looked over at Mr and Mrs Williamson, who were holding hands as they answered.


“Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?”


“We do.”


“Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?”


“We do.”


“Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?”


“We do.”


“Will the congregation please stand?”


I heard everyone behind us stand as he said “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”




“Let us pray.”


I closed my eyes and bowed my head as he prayed for the twins, and then blessed the font.


“Who do we have first?”


I watched as Sarah handed her daughter over, and the minister said “What is her name?”


“Sarah Lucinda.”


“Sarah Lucinda Holderness-Carter,” he said as he poured the water on her forehead, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”




He handed Sarah back, and then took Bart in his arms.  “And his name?”


“Bartholomew Horatio,” Brian said with pride.


“Bartholomew Horatio Holderness-Carter, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”




“Let us pray.


“Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.”


He then took Sarah in his other arm, and said


“Let us welcome the newly baptized.  We say together…”


And the congregation, me, Uncle Alex, all of us said loudly and cheerfully


“We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”


“The peace of the Lord be always with you.”


“And also with you.”


“You don’t mind if I take them for a little walk do you,” the minister said, Sarah and Brian shaking their heads as he walked round the church with them, some of the older members of the congregation stopping and playing with them before he returned them.


“As we accept Sarah and Bartholomew into the body of the Church,” he said as he handed each of us a candle, “we give you this gift, to remind you of Jesus, the light of the world, who has accepted these innocents into his fellowship, and charges you to care for and bring them up in his light.”


I gripped the candle and said “thank you” suddenly very aware of the responsibility I had signed up to.


“Now we sing a hymn chosen by Sarah and Brian,” the minister said as the words came up on the screen.


Jesus take me as I am,

I can come no other way…





When the service finished, the congregation came forward to look at the babies, while Uncle Alex and I slipped out with the Williamsons to get a drink.  Charlie and Lisa had sat with the Dale’s, Lisa in a light green summer dress and Charlie in a shirt and chinos.


“So what did you get as a Christening gift,” Mr Williamson said as we stood drinking our coffee.


“You’ll see it when we get back to Amy’s house,” Uncle Alex said.  “So you decided to stay here for the week?”


“Yeah – our friends in Martha’s Harbour are coming to see us instead.  You head back tomorrow?”


“I’m afraid so – still, that’s tomorrow.  Today we celebrate.”


“Right,” Veronica said as she came out, “we need to head back and start getting things ready.  It’s Mark and Yvonne, right?”


“That’s right.”


“You need to follow me – I’ll guide you to the house.  See y’all later!”


“Charlie, Lisa, we need to go now,” their mother called out, and they waved to me as they went past.


“Right,” Heidi said from behind me, “Time to – Dave!!”


I watched as she embraced and kissed a young man with sandy hair, and brought him over.  “Dave, I want to introduce you to my friend Alicia.  Alicia, Dave.”


“So you’re the mysterious Alicia,” he said as he shook my hand, “Heidi has told me a lot about you, particularly about last year.”


“She talks about you as well – she said you were in Australia for a year?”


“Yeah – my dad’s company sent him there.  So I missed – certain things, but we’re catching up now.”


“Are you coming back to our place Dave?”


“I’m afraid I can’t, but I will be around later.  See you then.”  I watched as they kissed each other and Dave walked off, Heidi smiling as he left.


“Nice guy – bit like Martin.”


“Well, a little,” Heidi said as we saw Amy waving to us.  “Come on – time to go home.”




As we drove up, we saw that Veronica had already arrived as had the Williamsons.


“Alex,” Mister Williamson said as we came in, “cold one?”


“Don’t mind if I do,” Uncle Alex said as he took the can.  “Did you see in the paper about Jay Edwards?”


“No – what’s he done this time?”


“Broke into the house of Edwin van der Bild, held his family, his housekeeper and her daughter hostage, and then forced him to transfer ten million dollars from his bank.”


Mister Williamson let out a low whistle.  “I don’t know how he does it,” he then said quietly.


“Who does it,” Jack Hawkins said as he, Margaret and Alice came in.


“Jay Edwards – one of the UK’s more well known bank robbers.”


“Yeah, I heard about the Boston raid – I gotta admit, he’s a crook, but he does it with some style.  Compared to some of the psychos we come across…”


“Jack!  No work today, remember?”


“Yes, I remember,” Mr Hawkins said as he accepted the can from Uncle Alex, and Alice joined us.


“So what did your dad get them as a christening present,” I asked.


“Matching Boston Red Sox outfits – they are going to get so ribbed at times,” Alice said quietly.


“Hey – they may be Rugby fans instead, you know.”


“I bet you’re hoping Bart is,” I said as I turned to look at Brian. 


“Well, he may want to play it, we’ll see,” Brian said with a smile.


I made my excuses and headed for the kitchen.  As I went through, Amy, Dorothy and Veronica were arranging plates of food, bowls of salad and baked potatoes.


“Here we go,” Heather said as she carried in several boxes.  “Fresh fruit pies as requested.”


“Put them over there,” Veronica said as she pointed to a side table.


I went back into the room with some soft drinks as Anne and Sue looked at the babies in Sarah’s arms.


“Look at them – they have no idea what awaits them,” Sue said as she stroked little Sarah’s cheek.


“Yeah but it’s going to be wonderful watching them grow up,” Sarah said with a smile.


“Here,” Blossom Dale said as she held out a box, “a small present from all of us.”


Anne and Sue took the babies as Sarah opened the box, and took out a pair of crotched blankets.  “Thank you, they’re lovely,” she said as she kissed Blossom on the cheek, and laid the box to one side.


“Well, if we’re giving presents out,” Katherine said, “here’s ours.  Natalie?”


“Give me a hand will you,” she said to me, Heidi and Cindy, as we went out and carried in a rocking horse with two seats.


“Oh my,” Sarah said as she looked at it, “how are we meant to get that to our place?”


“We’ll work it out later,” Brian said, “but thank you.”


As more presents were handed over, I smiled – and then I heard the telephone ringing.


“Alicia,” Dorothy called out, “it’s for you.”


“For me?”  I went out and took the handset from Dorothy, saying “Hello?”


“Ali, it’s Jenny.”


“Hey Jenny – what’s up?”


“Not much – just got some news to tell you.  Is there a party going on there?”


“The christening – everyone’s here for lunch.”


“Well, then my timing’s perfect…”






“Hey,” Uncle Alex said as I came back in, “do you know you’ve got an enormous grim on your face.”


“Yeah, I do,” I said quietly, and then I whispered the news into his ear.


“Oh?   OH – well I think you need to tell everyone here,” he said with a smile.  “Folks – sorry to interrupt, but Alicia has some news to tell you.”


“Er – hi,” I said quietly.  “Most of you know Jenny and Cassie’s Aunt Connie.  Well, Jenny has just called to tell me that she gave birth earlier today to a baby girl – Janey Cassandra Brown.  Mother, baby and big brother doing well.”


“Well, I think that deserves a toast,” Brian said.  “Everyone, fill your glasses.”


We all stood round as Brian said “Folks, to the health of Janey Brown!”




“So let me get this straight now,” Natalie said as she sat down with me and the other girls, “the younger generation in Holderness now has Andrew Bowden, Danny and now Janey Brown, June and Dave Craig, and your Aunt Susan is expecting as well?”


“Yeah – there’s quite a little group developing there, isn’t there,” I said with a smile.


“Do you ever dream of what will happen when you grow up – marry Martin, see what happens after that?”


“No comment,” I said as I remembered the dream from last night.


“Folks – help yourselves to food,” Anne called through from the dining room, as people started to filter through.


I found myself standing behind Chloe and James, waiting to help myself to food as I noticed her watch glowing green.


“So do you return to the school next week Chloe,” I said as we waited.


“Yes – but I also start my second year at college this year, so I will split my time between both places, as well as – wherever I may be needed.”


I nodded as we helped ourselves to some food, and went out into the back yard, sitting at a table.


“So Angela, she also starts college in a few weeks?”


“Yeah – she asked me to pass on a message to you, but I haven’t really had the chance to do so yet – it’s somewhat personal.”


“Oh – do I want to be here when you share it,” James said with a smile.


“Yeah – because she says it’s to both of you.  She says if you ever need to talk, to share, call, no matter what time it is.”


Chloe nodded as she grasped James’ hand.  “Tell her thank you – we appreciate it,” Chloe said quietly as Anne came out with Kayla.


“So when’s the wedding going to be?”


“Not for some time – we both have our courses to finish,” James said.  “But soon after that, and we’ll make sure you get invitations.”


I nodded as I saw Brian talking to Mister and Mrs Williamson.


“We can’t accept this Mark,” I heard Brian say, “you should not have…”


“We did it for them – the amount’s already invested and locked away, so you can’t do anything about it.  Call it – call it a thank you for what you did for us,” Mister Williamson said.  I wondered what he meant by that as he said “and besides, it’s not for you and Sarah – it’s for the kids.”


“All right, but this is generous beyond measure,” Brian said as he shook his hand.




I turned as the girls sat next to me.


“So, what are you going to do when you fly back tomorrow?”


“Sleep for an age I think – but I only have a few days before I go back to school myself.  Pain in the backside.”


“We share your pain – we’re back next week as well,” Cindy said as she looked round.  “I hate when summer comes to an end.”


“Tell me about it,” I said with a smile.






“Hello?  Anyone home?”


“Alex,” Mum said as she came through and hugged Uncle Alex, “how was the christening?”


“Wonderful event – wasn’t it Ali?”


“Yeah it was,” I said as I hugged Mum, “but I’m so glad to be back.  Where are Dad and Angela?”


“Dad’s at work, and Angela is out with Eddie,” she said as we went into the kitchen.  “Did you sleep on the plane?”


“For once yes – but only because I stayed up all night Sunday.  Hello Andy – we got a present for you.”


Andy giggled as he looked at me, and then said “Lsha!”


“Yes it’s Alicia,” Mum said with a smile.


“Right, I need to get back to the house, and see Susan,” Uncle Alex said as he hugged me.  “I’ll see you later kiddo.”


“Sure, Uncle Alex – and thanks again,” I said as he left, and Mum put the kettle on.


“If you’re up to it, you can have a shower and change, and then I’ll take you round to Jenny’s.”


“Sounds good – but can we go to the music store first?”


“Of course we can – did you miss him?”


“You have no idea,” I whispered as I sat down, “no idea, mum.”







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