“Good evening, Emily, darling,” the recording said in my mother’s cheerful voice, “I’m just calling to remind you about dinner tomorrow night. I do hope you’re still coming, as you haven’t given me any confirmation and it would be a shame to waste a good roast. Your father and I are very much looking forward to seeing you and Nate. Hugs and kisses and we’ll see you tomorrow!”
Shit. I deleted the message and walked slowly back into the living room, the mobile hanging loosely from my hand. Something must have shown in my face, because Faye said,
“Fish? What is it?”
I stared at her blankly for a moment. “I forgot to tell my mother.”
Alex snorted with laughter and then quieted as Faye hit him with the pillow again. “Sorry,” he said. “You forgot to tell your mother? Really? What have you been doing all week?”
“Shut up, Alex,” Faye said. “What was she calling about? Oh, shit, she didn’t hear from someone else, did she? Like Nate’s mum?”
I collapsed back on the sofa between them and rested my head on the back cushion. “No. She’s expecting us for dinner tomorrow night. Both of us. I have to call and tell her Nate won’t be coming seeing as we’re no longer together.” I groaned and sat up. “She’s going to kill me.”
“Your mother is a reasonable person,” Alex said. “Right? She’ll probably offer you litres of tea and biscuits and chocolate and reassure you that there are plenty more fish in the sea. No pun intended.”
“My mother is a reasonable person about most things,” I said, plucking the ice cream container from his hand and scooping a large spoonful into my mouth. “The problem is,” I said around the mouthful, “is that when it comes to me and my future offspring, she is the most unreasonable person I have ever met.”
Alex laughed again. “You’re not serious.”
“You’ve met my mother. Tell me I’m joking.”
“The topic of kids has never come up.”
I dug my spoon deep into the ice cream. “My mother wants grandbabies. Lots of them. She reckons that if she could get married, have kids, and be a full-time academic at the same time there’s no reason I can’t do the same. And I can’t shove off some of the responsibility onto Mark, since he’s decided he doesn’t want kids and instantly vetoes dating any girl who wants babies. So Mum turns all of those rampaging grandmother hormones on me.” I frowned. “Admittedly I don’t think this is very fair.” I waved my spoon. “I don’t want kids any more than Mark does. I think Mum just likes to pick on me because I’m older. I think she thinks my biological clock should be ticking. It’s really not.”
By this point both Faye and Alex were laughing.
“Poor thing,” Faye managed at last. “I would offer to go with you for moral support but I’m busy tomorrow night. Sorry!”
“I could go,” Alex offered. “Sarah’s gone to Paris for the weekend with some friends, and anyway I just spent a week with her. If it would make telling your parents easier…”
“Jeez, you’re making it sound like she’s coming out,” Faye said.
“Shut up,” I said, throwing a pillow at Faye’s head and missing by about a foot. I looked at Alex. “Seriously? You’d come? My mother makes amazing food but I’m not sure that’ll make up for the implosion that’s bound to occur when I tell her.” I groaned. “I’m really, really not looking forward to telling Mum that there’s not going to be a wedding for her to hyperplan in the next year.”
Faye snorted again but I ignored her and kept my eyes on Alex.
“I mean, really,” I said. “You don’t need to come.”
He shrugged. “It’s not a problem. I didn’t have any plans this weekend anyway. What train do you want to catch?”
I squinched my eyes shut, ignoring Faye’s giggling, and tried to remember the schedule. “There’s one at 11:43 that will put us into Oxford a bit before three,” I said at last. “Oh. I should warn you — I’m staying the night. Dad will be gutted if I only stop in for a couple hours. If you want to stay over you can probably stay in Mark’s room, but don’t feel like you need to — ”
“I’ll stay,” he said cheerfully, adding, “After all, they might jump you the moment I leave, and that would hardly be fair, would it?”
“Fab,” Faye said and yawned. “And on that note, I’m going up to bed, my darlings. Enjoy your trip tomorrow and I shall see you when I get back.” She bounced off the bed with far more energy than I could even think of and disappeared up the stairs.
Alex gestured at the telly with his spoon. Did you want to finish watching this drivel or did you want to collapse?” He eyed me dubiously. “Your eyes are drifting closed.”
“Bed for me, I suppose.”
“Am I going to have to carry you upstairs and unceremoniously dump you into bed?”
“No,” I said, dragging myself up and looking vaguely in the direction of the ice cream containers.
“I’ll put away,” Alex said. “Go to bed already. You look shattered. And I don’t actually want to carry you up to bed.”
“Cheers,” I said. “’Night.”