7.27 A.M. The kids and I aboard a speeding train to Manchester, on our way to meet Dan, his two sons and his attractive best friend Clara.
Matilda, is sat texting me ‘I hate you for cancelling my party’ texts, with a series of angry faced emoji icons.
My decision to cancel her party and take her to Manchester, along with her two younger brothers, resulted in:
A huge strop
A lot of shouting
A tearful phone call to her father which involved her telling him that I am a bad mother.
A YouTube video to her 2560 followers titled ‘my mother has ruined my life’.
My youngest son, Toby, is sat next to me, reading aloud to his imaginary friend Malcolm, who apparently is sat cross-legged in the train aisle.
I have to hand it to Malcolm, the imaginary friend, as I have spent years failing miserably at persuading Toby to read a book. Malcolm comes along and Toby turns into a book-worm overnight.
Harry my eldest son is sulking. Like his sister he didn’t take the news of the Manchester trip very well. Missing Saturday football practice is the end of the world for Harry.
Right now my only family supporters are Toby and Malcolm, the imaginary friend.
I am sat thinking about whether this meeting with Dan’s kids and best friend Clara will go well.
I recall the telephone conversation Dan and I had last night, where I tried to explain that Matilda can be a little temperamental. He didn’t seem to mind. Forewarning him about Malcolm, the imaginary friend felt like a step too far.
Perhaps I should ask Toby to keep quiet about Malcolm? Mmmm.
“Toby,” I say, interrupting him from his reading. “Shall we keep Malcolm a secret from Dan and his sons?”
“Why?” asks Toby.
“Because you are weird and we already have enough weirdos in the family!” snaps Harry, flicking his sister’s ear.
“Go away loser!” hisses Matilda.
“Would you do that for me?” I ask Toby, giving his hair a ruffle.
“Malcolm and I have decided that we don’t like you anymore!” announces Toby. “Come on Malcolm” he says talking into thin air. “Lets go sit somewhere else!” I watch Toby guide his imaginary friend away.
Great Roxy – you now have no family supporters!
9.34 A.M. We have got off the train and I can see an excited Dan waving at us.
“Hello!” I say giving Dan a hug.
“Hey Team Collins!” he says with a grin and giving the kids a big thumbs up.
An awkward silence descends upon us all as none of my kids react positively to his big thumbs gesture.
Matilda grunts and looks away. Harry mumbles something about weirdos and Toby announces that “Malcolm says hi!”
Dan looks around and then asks “who is Malcolm?”
I groan and look away.
10.00 A.M. We have just pulled up outside Dan’s posh three bedroom house in a really nice part of Manchester. It is like a different part of the world to our housing estate back home; there are no parts of old rusted cars in the front gardens, there are no shifty looking gangs of teenage youths on bikes and there is not a middle aged male in sight clad in a string vest.
“Clara and the boys are inside!” says Dan, planting a kiss on my cheek.
We climb out of Dan’s car. Matilda rolls her eyes at me, Harry refuses to look at me and Toby tells me Malcolm is desperate for the loo.
Dan’s teenage sons Tom and Fred, meet us at the door. To my disappointment they are tall, dashing, well spoken and charming.
“Nice to meet you Roxy!” they say in unison, reaching out to shake my hand. My goodness Dan has taught them well!
I find myself wishing Dan had received a better welcome from my three at the station.
Tom and Fred have introduced themselves to Matilda, who is ignoring them whilst frantically typing something into her phone.
“Matilda!” I hiss.
She looks up and rolls her eyes.
Harry refuses to shake their hands and Toby tells them that Malcolm might wet himself soon if he doesn’t find a toilet.
My phone is vibrating. It is a text from Matilda. It reads: ‘OMG he is so fit!’ and a heart emoji icon. I look over and catch sight of her drooling at Fred.
“Who wants a game of football in the garden?” asks Fred.
Matilda and Harry both leave their seats and rush outside for different reasons.
10.09 A.M. Clara glides downstairs. I am shocked at how pretty and sophisticated she is.
The glasses have disappeared. Her long brown hair is scooped up into an elegant bun and she is wearing a designer green mini dress.
She is a little cool with me and scans my outfit (the one I picked up in a charity shop because I have no money this month). I think I have just detected a snooty look.
“Hi I am Clara!” she says, avoiding my gaze.
Before I can introduce myself she saunters out to the kitchen.
I tell myself that Clara might struggle with meeting new people.
10.24 A.M. Clara, Dan and I are stood at the French windows at the back of the house watching the kids play football.
Clara has draped herself over Dan and does’t seem to be untangling herself.
I can feel irritation starting to prickle at my cheeks. Tell myself that Clara is just a good friend of Dans.
Harry is now arguing with Tom over a penalty kick.
“Please play nicely!” I say, rapping on the window at Harry.
“He has a temper on him doesn’t he?” observes Clara, without looking in my direction.
Dan laughs. “You have to hand it to Harry, taking on a lad twice the size of him!”
Clara snuggles into Dan’s arm and I find myself thinking that Harry won’t be the only one taking someone on in a minute.
Matilda’s shriek of laughter distracts me. She is stood talking to Fred whilst flicking her hair and giving him a sugary smile.
In my head I try to reach her telepathically and say ‘Please don’t flirt with your future stepbrother Matilda!” She doesn’t pick up on my mental message.
Dan has released himself from Clara and has come to give me a cuddle.
“Why are you so quiet?” asks Dan, stroking my hair.
I give him a weak smile.
Dan suggests we move to the kitchen table. Whilst he makes some coffee Clara talks to me.
“I have known Dan and his family for years!” she announces giving me a piercing stare,
“That’s nice!” is all I can manage.
“We get each other!” she says, twirling a brown strand of hair around her manicured finger.
“I’m sure you do!” I say, as anger starts to heat up my neck.
“We are like brother and sister” she informs me.
I try to stifle a yawn but fail. Clara screws up her face and looks away.
After Dan places the mugs of coffee on the table he takes the seat next to Clara which annoys me. She grins at me like the cat with the saucer of cream.
“We had such a nice holiday together in Italy last year – didn’t we Dan?” she purrs.
I exhale loudly. Dan never told me that being best friends involved holidaying together.
Dan reaches over and places his hand over mine. “We had a great time in Greece didn’t we Roxy!”
I try to force out a smile.
“We are booking another holiday aren’t we Dan?” says Clara bringing his hand back to hers.
I look away and blink away hot stinging tears. This was supposed to be an enjoyable romantic trip. Instead it feels like a day of polite torture.
12.37 P.M.. We are all sat having lunch around Dan’s large wooden family sized table.
I wish Matilda would stop staring at Fred and making him shift uncomfortably in his seat. Why do I feel like I am raising my own trainee bunny boiler.
Toby is telling Dan all about Malcolm’s eating preferences and Harry is correcting Tom on his football knowledge.
“Did Dan tell you I have just bought a new Mercedes?” asks Clara, handing me the bowl of salad.
I don’t answer her.
“Do you like my cooking Roxy?” asks Dan, giving me a grin.
“Its better than mine!” I say.
“Oh can’t you cook Roxy?” asks Clara. “I have just finished a course in French gourmet cooking!”
I grimace and look away.
1.06 P.M. Dan has cleared away the dishes and the main course. He has just placed a large place of cream cakes on the table.
“Hey Clara!” he says. “Do remember when we were kids and we used to eat a box of cakes in your tree house?”
Clara smiles and nods. “Those days were so much fun…just the two of us!” She looks at me.
I find myself staring at the cream filled cakes in the centre of the table and thinking bad thoughts.
“Mam I’m bored!” announces Matilda, as Fred leaves the table.
Clara rolls her eyes and I can feel anger bubbling inside of me.
“Malcolm needs the toilet!” says Toby, leaving the table.
“You’re children are interesting Roxy!” says Clara.
“And what do you mean by that?” I snap.
“Like I said they are….interesting!” she says, staring at her nails.
I have had quite enough of Clara and her comments.
Dan is weak. He seems incapable of giving anyone else his attention when Clara is around.
My children are not little angels but that is none of Clara’s business.
I am not sure I want to be in a relationship with someone who has Clara as a best friend.
I deserve better!
It is time for some quick decisions.
I rise from the table. “Kids get your things – we are leaving!” I bark.
“What?” exclaims Dan, getting out of his seat. “Roxy what’s the matter?”
I take a deep breath and stare at Clara’s grinning face. Its time I taught his best friend a lesson.
I grab the largest of the cream cakes and shove it in Clara’s smug face. Making sure I smear it all over her glasses. She screams and yelps.
“Sorry Dan!” I say wiping my hands on a napkin. “My hand slipped!”
“What did you do that for?” he shouts.
“She deserved it! Goodbye Dan and Clara! Enjoy your life together!” I turn on my heel and march out of Dan’s house with my kids in tow.
I can’t believe how energised and strong I feel.
“OMG Mam I can’t believe you caked that woman!” says Matilda, as we walk up to the high street to hail a taxi.
“Nor can I!” I giggle.
“Sometimes you are ace Mam!” coos Matilda, linking her arm through mine.
“Really?” I ask, feeling like my teenage daughter and I have finally bonded after I shoved a cream cake in another woman’s face.
“No one messes with Mam!” pipes up Matilda.
“You are right!” I say proudly. A warm glow shoots up my spine.
The reality of breaking up with Dan hits me as we get into the taxi cab. I will never see his handsome face again.
Sometimes I do wonder whether my youngest son can read minds. As we fasten our seat belts and instruct the driver to take us to the station Toby says “Malcolm thinks you will regret the cake incident later” pipes up Toby.
8.34 P.M. I am crying into my Pinot Grigio whilst listening to soothing Whale music.