We’re nine years old today! And we’re celebrating with a birthday Round Robin written by six of our talented Choc Lit authors. Jane Lovering set us up for the perfect ending with a mysterious note left in a borrowed book. Will Kathryn Freeman deliver and finish our wonderful birthday story with a bang? Let’s see!
In order to enjoy this story, you’ll need to read it in order, so make sure you read:
Also, remember to read right until the end so you can enter the last competition of the day. All competitions on all extracts will be open until next Tuesday so there’s plenty of time left to enter all of them!
The Forgotten Birthday – Final Part
As Lauren started to read the note, her heart began to pound. She recognised it. Her mind swimming in disbelief, she skimmed over the childish writing.
Happy birfday Laura. Will you be my girlfriend? Hugh xx
It couldn’t be the same note. That had been over twenty years ago. And the boy who’d written it had been called Hugh Webster, not Peacock.
But the more she stared at it, the more the memories came flooding back. It was addressed not to Lauren, but to Laura. The name she’d gone by all those years ago, before she’d decided Lauren sounded more elegant.
There was only one person who could explain to her why she was reading a note given to her on her ninth birthday. She glanced at her watch. Was ten o’clock too late for a woman to knock on the door of a man she hardly knew?
Sober Lauren would have answered yes, but this version, on a high after the day, fortified by a few drinks, had the confidence to march right up to it.
Her jaw dropped when the door opened. ‘Hugh?’ He didn’t look like the man she’d met this morning. Wearing a T-shirt that moulded chest muscles she hadn’t noticed beneath the old jacket he’d worn, it was his face that shocked her the most. ‘You shaved off your beard.’
He shifted awkwardly on his feet. ‘Ah, yes, you noticed.’
His eyes crinkled. Deep brown eyes, warm and inviting as a mug of cocoa. How had she missed them earlier? More memories filled her head. A boy with a permanently creased blazer, scuffed shoes and dark hair that flopped into his brown eyes. Her heart began to race. ‘Why?’
‘I thought you might have more chance recognising me.’ His eyes held hers and she felt their pull. Just as she had all those years ago.
‘It is you,’ she whispered.
His freshly shaven cheeks flushed. ‘Afraid so.’
‘But … how? Is this just a coincidence?’
The flush deepened and he dragged a hand through his hair. ‘Yes, and no. You applying to be on the course run by my mum, yes. Me coming here in her place, no.’ When she simply stared at him, too shocked, too overcome to do anything else, he sighed and opened the door wider. ‘I see I have some explaining to do. Do you want to come in?’ His hand rose to his chin, then dropped again, no doubt realising he no longer had a beard to scratch. ‘Sorry, you probably don’t want to come into a stranger’s room. We can go to the bar, or—’
Lauren stepped inside. ‘You’re not a stranger, Hugh Webster.’
She caught his eye and he smiled. It was the same boyish smile she remembered, though this time it came from a man. A very attractive man. Somewhere inside her chest she felt a long-forgotten tug.
Moving to the end of the room she went to sit on the chair, leaving him to perch on the bed. Maybe it was the room, but he felt larger now. No longer the bearded, bumbling author, but a potent, handsome male.
‘So.’ He smiled sheepishly, and all at once he was the boy she knew again. ‘I help my mum out with the creative writing course she runs. Daphne Peacock is her pen name. Her real name is Daphne Webster.’
‘That’s why I didn’t recognise you. Plus, the beard.’
Again, he went to scratch it. Again, he dropped his hand. ‘Ex-wife hated beards, so when we divorced I grew one just because I could.’ He searched out her eyes. ‘Am I right in thinking you’re divorced, too?’
She grinned, feeling lighter, more carefree than she’d done in a long time. ‘My Chains piece did kind of give that away, didn’t it?’
‘It did.’ His expression sobered a little. ‘I’m sorry. It sounded like you had a bad time.’
‘I’m over it.’ And she was, she realised with a burst of pride. After today, she’d officially put that part of her life in the past.
‘Good.’ His smile returned. ‘And I wasn’t kidding when I said you might have a knack for poetry. It really was very good.’
‘Thank you.’ But much as she looked forward to turning her mind to new ventures, there was still something from her past she wanted to explore. ‘You were telling me why you’re here instead of your mum?’
‘Ah, yes.’ He glanced down to his clasped hands, then back up at her. ‘You’d sent a photo, and although the form said your first name was Lauren not Laura, everything else, including the date of birth, clicked and I knew, just knew it was you.’ She watched his throat move as he swallowed. ‘I thought, to hell with it, I’m running that course. I wanted to see you again. See if those feelings I had as a boy, were still there as a man.’
It was her turn to have to swallow as the emotion clogged her throat. ‘And are they?’
His dark eyes burned into hers. ‘God, yes. The moment I saw you, that was it. I turned into my bumbling nine-year-old self, desperately hoping the prettiest girl in the class would take notice of me.’
Her stomach flip-flopped and Lauren felt a prick at the back of her eyes. ‘Your note. Where did you find it?’
‘You left it on your desk at school. I picked it up, meaning to give it back to you, but I never screwed up the courage again. Until now.’
As his eyes pressed hers, her heart lifted. Slowly she rose to her feet and went to stand next to him. ‘What if I tell you that was the most romantic thing I’ve ever had happen to me?’
He smiled and his hands reached to clasp her face, sending tingles through her. ‘What if I ask you to have dinner with me tomorrow?’
Her heart jumped. ‘What if I tell you this is the best birthday I’ve ever had?’
His gaze dropped to her lips, and his eyes darkened. ‘What if I kiss you?’
Oh wow! Well done Kathryn – we certainly didn’t expect that and it really was the perfect ending to an amazing birthday story.
Thank you to all our authors and to all of our supportive readers too! We hope you’ve enjoyed this story and continue to enjoy Choc Lit books for many years to come. Here’s to another year of fantastic authors and brilliant books!
If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you might like to check out her books. You can find details by clicking the images above.
To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate to go with it simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):
What is Hugh’s mum’s real name?
To enter, send your answer to email@example.com with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kathryn Freeman comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.