As dawn broke in Grecondale, one very excited Tiny was up and out of bed early.
“Polly! Sylvia!” Meggy shouted, balancing precariously on the edge of the playpen and peering into her sisters’ cots, “Time to get up – it’s my birthday! Whoop whoop!” she shouted as she leapt back down, landing with a surprising thump.
The sleepy-eyed twins scrambled dazedly to their feet but were soon wide awake too as they recalled what treats the day ahead held for them. Meggy helped them out of their beds.
“I’m having a PARTY!” said Meggy, “Yes, with lots of friends!” said Sylvia, “And cakes!” chimed in Polly. “AND CORNY!” they all chorused together and the girls danced around in a circle chanting, “Corny! Corny! Corny!” until they made themselves giddy and fell to the floor in a giggling heap.
When the new and already much-loved nursemaid, Anne-Louise, came to wake the girls and get them ready for the party, she was all but knocked off her feet by the stampede for the bathroom. Wash-time was certainly going to be easier than usual this morning, she thought and smiled – the children’s excitement was infectious.
Downstairs, Delia, the most domesticated of all Grecondale’s ladies, had arrived early with a view to giving Rita a hand with the party preparations, just as Jenny from the bakery was leaving. Jenny was carrying a large, empty basket, “Somehow I don’t think your services are going to be required this morning, Delia,” she said, chuckling to herself as they passed.
“I thought you might need a hand, Rita…” Delia’s voice tailed off as she entered the kitchen and was met with a sea of cakes and sandwiches. Rita looked a little flustered, “Ah, yes, well not a word to my sister-in-law Doris, Delia, but Jenny Wren has just been and as you can see..” she reddened a little and waved her arm at the spread before them. “Okay, cards on the table – my plan is to leave my Be-Ro cookbook here and let Doris draw her own conclusions – I know it’s shocking but we can’t all be domestic goddesses!” Delia’s broke into laughter, “Oh Rita, don’t worry, I’m not shocked and I won’t say a word.” Rita breathed a sigh of relief and went to the cupboard.
“Fancy a gin?” she said, producing a large bottle and two glasses from the dresser. Now THAT shocked Delia!
[It should be noted that Rita is not generally given to early-morning drinking, however, having very sadly lost her daughter in childbirth some years ago, on occasions such as this she understandably thinks about what might have been, had things been different. Surely we can’t begrudge her a little snifter of Dutch Courage? Though the term ‘Mother’s Ruin’ does come to mind…]
The party was well underway. Delia’s twin boys, Hector and George (who had dared each other to steal a cherry from the top of a nearby cake) and her twin girls, Lola and Lulu were there, as were Doris and her daughter Shirley. The children were having a wonderful time and Knitwon and Purltoo were happily hoovering up crumbs as they fell to the floor.
Soon it was time for Meggy to cut her birthday cake, “Don’t forget to make a wish, Meggy my love,” said Rita, knowing well what the wish would be – Meggy was a little jealous of the special bond between twins Sylvia and Polly and… “Um, I’d like a sister please, a twin sister,” Meggy said with fervour as she reached for the knife. “Oh you have to make it in your head, Meggy, not out loud,” said Rita. Meggy’s face fell, “Does that mean it won’t come true?” she said, “Well, darling, it’s a very big wish isn’t it? We’ll just have to wait and see. Now who wants birthday cake?” she asked the children, quickly changing the subject.
With the birthday tea over, Delia volunteered to do the washing up.
While in the living room, the table had been cleared away and a game of Musical Chairs had commenced. Ructions soon followed as Hector and Shirley tussled doggedly over the same chair.
Meggy, feeling very grown up on her birthday, intervened, “I’d give up if I was you, Hector. Shirley’s my cousin and she NEVER gives in over ANYTHING,” she advised sagely. Hector reluctantly relinquished his claim on the chair and went off to sulk in a corner.
Hector’s sulk didn’t last long however, because after Musical Chairs, the moment they had all been waiting for finally arrived. “Are they ready?” Cornelius whispered to Rita from the doorway, “Are you kidding? Step this way, Corny!” Rita said, opening the door and ushering him through as cheers of delight rose up from the children who were seated in rows on the carpet, shuffling and nudging each other with excitement.
There were cries of “Corny! Corny!” as Cornelius made his way silently to the front of the room, banjo in hand and tripping up comically on heaven knows what invisible hazards along the way. Corny the Clown was well-known and much cherished by the Tinies of Grecondale, and his occasional visits (whilst on holiday from his day job with Silly Bart’s Circus) were anticipated with great excitement.
After a blast on his banjo and various shenanigans involving lots of falling over and silliness with Meggy’s toy rabbit, which had the children’s sides splitting (little Lulu had to taken upstairs for a change of clothes after giggling so much she had an accident) Corny flapped his arms at the children to signal that they should all quieten down.
He disappeared from the room and returned a few moments later with a clothes airer and blanket, making much of not being able to fit through the door with the airer held sideways, making the children dissolve into fits of laughter once again. Eventually, he made it into the room and stood the clothes airer up in front of the children, handing the blanket to Rita who seemed to know what was required of her.
Corny indicated that Rita should place the blanket over the airer and she duly obliged. The children had fallen silent and watched with baited breath as Corny performed a little dance in front of the covered airer. There was much exaggerated bending of knees and swooping of arms through the air. “I think he’s doing magic,” Shirley whispered to Lola and Lulu who were sitting either side of her.
Then, with a flourish, Corny swept the blanket off the clothes airer and took a step back. The room remained silent for a moment as the children stared blankly at the airer.
Soon a gasp went up, and another, and another, as one by one the children spotted a little face peeping out from behind the airer.
The face belonged to one very tired looking little girl and, taking her gently by the hand, Rita led her out from behind the airer. “Meggy, this is your new sister. Children, meet April,” she said. There were more gasps and a moment of stunned silence before…
…Meggy jumped to her feet and ran forward to take April’s hand. The other Tinies jumped up too and crowded round to see Meggy’s new sister.
Meggy gave her bewildered-looking new sister a reassuring hug, “Don’t worry, April, I was shy too when I arrived here,” she said and then her eyes widened and she looked April full in the face, “Oh April, do you think we might be twins?!” she said with feeling. April nodded shyly and the die was cast, twins they were.
[Yes, I know, schmaltzy, but we love a happy ending here in Grecondale and there aren’t enough of those in real life, so shoot me!]
© 2017, Zoe. All rights reserved.