May The Best Team Win – Episode 09

Gerard Fay © Priscilla makes her presence felt Illustration: Gerard Fay

The pub was festive. Rachel thought it looked great. Maeve and Brad had gone to town for their younger son’s fifteenth birthday.

There were banners and streamers everywhere and silver and blue balloons hung from the ceiling.

They’d laid on a magnificent buffet, too, full of sandwiches, pork pies, crisps and salads.

Jamie and his friends were tucking in hungrily.

Rachel smiled – teenage boys were bottomless pits when it came to food.

Jamie seemed to be having a great time. All his friends were here, and Maeve and Brad had also invited some of the pub regulars.

There was a pile of gifts on a table at one side and a big cake, waiting to be cut.

Then Brad was going to take the boys out for some paintball before the honours were done.

Rachel smiled as she remembered Sophie’s birthday celebrations over the years.

Where did the time go?

At that moment, her daughter appeared, hand in hand with Jamie’s older brother, Ollie, and Rachel’s face fell.

Their first date had gone well, and they were now an item. Rachel couldn’t help wishing that Sophie had chosen a more reliable young man.

She put on a smile as her daughter made her way towards her.

“Hey, Mum, having a good time?” Sophie asked. “It’s a great party, isn’t it?”

Rachel nodded.

“Ollie and I are going to go paintballing with the others. Is that OK?”

“Of course.”

Sophie leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

“Later!” she said, and was gone.

Rachel sighed and picked up her drink.

“You look a bit glum for a birthday party.” Ali sat down beside her. “Here, have a sausage roll.”

Rachel laughed and took one from the plate that was being offered.

“Thanks, Ali. I don’t mean to be a party-pooper. I’m enjoying myself really.”

“Good.” Ali grinned and took a sausage roll herself. “Mmm. Delicious.”

“How are you?” Rachel asked, as she wiped her hands on a serviette.

“Really good, thanks.”

Ali looked amazing. She was wearing a short black skirt and an ochre jumper, with her blonde hair cleverly piled on her head.

She wore a stunning pair of earrings, which Rachel suspected she had designed herself.

“What’s your secret?” she asked, with a grin. “You look fabulous.”

Ali blushed.

“Why, thank you,” she replied, “but I don’t think I have a secret. I guess it’s just happiness.”

“That’s good to hear.” Rachel raised an eyebrow.

“I may as well let you into a secret,” Ali continued, her colour deepening. “Cam and I are trying for a baby, and I’m really excited.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful.” Rachel was thrilled.

“Yes. We’ve always wanted a family and now seems a good time. I think it’ll be great to be a mum.”

“Yes, it is,” Rachel agreed.

Then she thought of Sophie, out with Ollie.

“It has its challenges,” she told Ali, “but I wouldn’t be without my Sophie for the world.”

“Of course you wouldn’t. She’s a lovely girl.” Ali smiled and squeezed her hand.

“I must go and get some of that delicious quiche. See you later.”

Rachel watched Ali make her way towards the buffet.

What a wonderful time of life for her.

“Hey, beautiful. How are you today?” Ewan sat down opposite and grinned.

He ran a hand through his blond hair and Rachel couldn’t help noticing how muscular his arm was.

“I couldn’t leave it any longer before I spoke to the most attractive woman at the party,” he told her.

Rachel felt her face growing warm.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Not bad, not bad at all.”

“Enjoying the party?”

“Maeve certainly knows how to put on a good spread.” Ewan smiled.

“Yes, it’s –” Rachel stopped suddenly.

The paintball party had returned and there, framed in the doorway, was her daughter – and she was kissing Ollie.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” Ewan followed her gaze and burst out laughing. “Oh, I see.”

Rachel frowned, but then Ewan came to sit beside her and his arm went round her.

“Don’t worry, babe,” he told her. “Ollie’s a decent lad, and a bit of romance is only natural.

“How about we go out for dinner to take your mind off it?”

Rachel wondered if she’d heard right. Had she just been asked out on a date?

“Thank you, Ewan. That would be lovely.”

Ewan grinned and pecked her on the cheek.

“Pick you up at eight,” he said, and sauntered away.

Rachel wasn’t sure whether she felt excited or petrified. She hadn’t been on a date for years.

To be continued…