by Aimee Horton
Published by Velvet Morning Press Genres: Chick Lit, Romantic Comedy

Two posts today? Unheard of! If you missed the previous post today, I’m part of the relaunch blog tour for Aimee Horton’s The Perfect Disaster Series. Swing over HERE to see the covers and read the book summaries! Ok, the covers are below too, but go read the other post too. You can buy the books there too. 🙂 This post, as you can see from the title, chapter one from book two in the series, Perfect Mishap. Enjoy!

Horton-PerfectDisasterSeries

Chapter 1

Am I the only one whose plans always go wrong?

WHY THE HELL ISN’T HE PICKING UP HIS PHONE?

I’m speeding. Well as much as you can speed when you’re stuck behind a tractor on what feels like a single-track road. There can’t possibly be enough room to overtake, even though that posh-looking car has overtaken us both and is already just a speck in the distance.

I glance at the seat next to me, where a Tesco carrier bag stuffed with various snacks, fruit shoots and about five different electrical gadgets is resting, along with my hospital bag. By hospital bag, I mean random clothes rammed into the first handbag I could find that didn’t have a layer of mini-cheddar crumbs crushed into the lining.

I didn’t expect this baby for another three or four weeks. How the hell was I supposed to know it would bloody come early?

The nearly out-of-battery iPad is charging in the cigarette lighter, and my mobile is propped precariously on the dashboard in front of the petrol gauge. Stabbing at the screen again, I select Henry’s number for the hundredth time and listen to it ring out. The kids in the back are irritating me even more by counting how many times it rings before going to answer machine. This time it’s only three before the sound of Henry’s “grown-up work voice” comes out of the tinny speakerphone and informs me he’s away on business and will be back in the office next week.

He’s bloody diverted my call! Three rings means he’s seen my name and diverted it! Idiot.

Stopping the car on the grass verge, I grab my phone from the dashboard and Google Henry’s Scotland office. He visits there every few months, yet I’ve never needed to call. I’ve always relied on his mobile phone to get in contact. However, this time it’s serious.

“I need to talk to Henry Harris, please,” I say to the Scottish voice on the other end of the phone. I attempt to sound calm, even though I can feel a niggling pain again in my lower back. The receptionist begins to inform me he’s in a meeting right now, but with the cars racing past and the kids shouting, I can’t hear her and lose patience.

“Look, can you give him an urgent message… no… I don’t want you to get him to call me back; I need you to use these exact words: THE BABY IS COMING. GET YOUR BLOODY ARSE HOME NOW. Have you got that?”

It’s times like this I wish I could slam my phone down instead of just pressing the screen angrily.

The pain subsides, and I try not to think about how cross Henry is going to be with me for speaking to her like that.

I suppose it was a bit rude.

But I’m having a bloody baby!

It’s not enough that he pissed off on a jolly to drink whisky for nearly a week and left me to move house on my own with the two kids—oh no. Now he’s going to miss the birth of his third bloody child, his second daughter. And yet again, I’m left to do everything myself. But I can’t do it all. I mean, I can’t even work out how to use the bloody newfangled baby monitor. It keeps screeching static at me or playing random music.

Starting the engine, I take a deep breath and carry on to the hospital. But all I can think about is: If I can’t manage to operate the baby monitor, how can I look after three children on my own?

Arriving at the hospital, I reach into my bag for my wallet to buy a parking ticket, but I can’t find it. Shit! I rummage about, but as I work my way through button-down nighties, big pants and feeding bras, the image of my lovely tan and pink leather wallet flashes in front of my eyes. It’s next to the kettle.

How the hell did I forget my wallet? I NEVER forget my wallet; you never know when there’s going to be a good shopping moment.

Sod it. I don’t have time to worry about little things like parking tickets. Balancing a vile-smelling, nearly asleep Mabel on my hip, I grab Arthur’s hand and make my way towards the entrance of the maternity wing. I’m nearly at the door when I hear a shout, and turning around, I see the traffic warden waving his hand, indicating my ticketless car.

This isn’t fair. Why do they charge for parking anyway?

In a sudden burst of pain-free energy, still lugging my bag and the kids, I march back towards him. As I approach my car, I realise he’s actually writing me a ticket. He’s not even given me a chance!

“You going inside to get change for the machine?” he asks, not even looking at me. He holds the ticket in the air, in what I can only assume is an overly dramatic way of giving me one last chance to say I was going to get change. But of course, I don’t give him that answer. Instead, I squeeze between my car and the one parked next to it and snatch the ticket off him.

“I…” I begin through gritted teeth as another pain builds up, “am… in… bloody… labour…”

He opens his mouth, starting to say something as he attempts to take his ticket back, and that’s when it hurts. Like proper hurts, and before I drop her, I thrust Mabel at him and grip onto the bonnet of the car, letting go of Arthur’s hand and the parking ticket as I do. The traffic warden visibly recoils, and I’m not entirely sure whether it’s because of the smell coming from Mabel’s nappy or because the ticket flies into the air and is carried away by the breeze.

Where the hell is Henry? How the heck am I meant to deal with all this on my own?

“Let’s get you inside, Miss.” I hear the attendant’s gruff voice, and holding onto the kids, he ushers me forwards. As we approach, we see a big sign on the automatic door reading “DOORS BROKEN. PLEASE USE REVOLVING DOOR” in bright red letters. The man moves through first, holding Arthur’s hand and Mabel in his arms.

Through the glass, I see a look of panic forming on Mabel’s face as she leaves me outside. Not wanting her to be scared at a time like this—I’m already terrified—I rush towards the door to follow them.

“Whose bright idea was it to put a revolving door in a maternity wing?” I mutter.

Taking a deep breath, I give the door a shove. It moves quicker than I thought, and one of the sections passes me by, then another. I jump into the next, managing to squeeze my big belly into the tiny compartment. I give another little push, hoping it will spin just as quickly, but my bag is blocking it.

Shuffling in farther, I drop my bag to the floor and try again. Nothing. My bump is too big; I can’t get the right angle. Damn it! Mabel’s calling my name. Her voice is on the edge, and she could start screaming any time now.

For crying out loud.

I turn sideways so that my bump is facing the middle, then take a side step. This time the door moves, and I manage to slowly sidestep round until a draft of air-conditioned air hits my red cheeks and the back of my neck. Collapsing into an undignified squat, I scoop up my bag before straightening up and turning around so I can make my way into the hospital.

Two young nurses and the car park attendant are trying their hardest not to laugh.

With as much dignity as I can muster, I wave at them, but in doing so, clout myself in the face. Instead of trying to save my dignity any further, I turn to the kids and point to some chairs next to a big television.

“Artie, here are some crisps for you and Mabel. Go and sit on those seats over there while Mummy talks to the nice midwife.” I collapse into a nearby wheelchair, nearly knocking another pregnant woman over who is about to ease herself into it. She opens her mouth, ready to say something, but I silence her with a glare.

That’s when I realise how serious the situation is, because while Henry will probably miss the birth of his child, the two small children already halfway through a bag of Pom-Bears might not.

I need a gin and tonic.

**

“Something’s not right.”

The words ring in my ears, and my exhausted, aching body jumps to attention.

After I collapsed in the wheelchair, the kids were ushered off with a nurse, and I was wheeled in for an examination. I was only two centimeters dilated.

How can I be only two centimeters dilated—I thought I was at least eight!

It feels like I’ve been here for days. They started to make noises about sending me home, muttering things about “coming back in a few hours,” but I couldn’t stand it. I could feel my voice getting higher and higher as I told them how hard it had been to get here. How my waters had broken on the stairs after celebrating a successful poo in the toilet (Mabel, not me). How I’d assumed it was a huge wee, but then the pains kept coming all through the afternoon and the school run. That’s when they changed their minds and whisked me off for another examination, promising me that the kids were perfectly happy and they would try to find out where Henry was.

That was hours ago, and now here I am, with those terrifying three words hanging in the air.

Something’s not right.

“What’s not right?” I ask, but it comes out as a whisper. Not that anybody is listening to me anyway. In fact, they’re all whispering to each other. I turn to the midwife hovering next to me, but she avoids eye contact.

“What’s not right?” I say again, louder, and I can hear the fear in my voice.

“Baby seems to be in a bit of an awkward position,” she trills, patting my hand. “We’re just fetching the consultant to come have a look.” She is smiling and seems perfectly calm, but I can’t get the words something’s not right out of my head.

What am I going to do? How can I do this on my own?

That’s when I remember Jane. My best friend Jane. She works on the children’s ward. As soon as her name pops into my mind, I start to breathe properly again. She’s at work today! Right at this very moment, she is somewhere in this hospital.

She’ll know what to do.

In my excitement, I gabble at the midwife, who eventually understands what I’m trying to say, and they put out a page.

As we’re waiting for Jane to appear, the doctor arrives. He’s tall, dark and looks to be in his late fifties. He obviously recognises me, but I don’t have a clue who he is.

“Dottie Harris!” he greets me. “I thought you were never going to have another baby as long as you lived!” His eyes are sparkling, and he has a smile on his face.

He must have been here when one of the kids was born.

“How is the young man?” he asks as he examines me. I start to tell him about Arthur and now Mabel, but he stands up and cuts me off. “This baby looks like it’s going to be a monkey, breech, so we need to prepare for other options.”

What does that mean? I can’t cope with this.

Totally overwhelmed, I burst into tears. Just then, Jane runs into the room, closely followed by a midwife who informs me that while she’s not been able to get through to Henry, his office confirmed he’s on his way.

On his bloody way? If he hadn’t gone to bloody Scotland he’d be here by now, telling me everything is going to be OK. Luckily, I have Jane.

Jane is already by my side, stroking my hair. After a few reassuring words, she turns to the doctor and asks what my options are.

Jane talks me through what the doctor said, and I look at her blankly. She realises I’m too far gone to hear anything in detail so pauses before saying, “They were going to try and turn the baby manually, but you’re quite far along now, so you’re more than likely going to have a C-section.” Her blue eyes are full of concern, and she searches my face, waiting for my reaction.

The words hit me like a punch in the stomach. Either that or it’s another contraction. I irrationally blame Henry for all that has gone wrong.

Idiot husband. If we’d not bought that stupid house, I’d not had to start bloody decorating the bloody awful nursery and gone into labour. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t bloody be here now. Alone.

Just as I start ranting at Jane, the door flings open again, and a midwife shouts, “Sir… sir… please! Who are you?!” as Henry appears, closely followed by two security guards in hot pursuit. As soon as they see me half lying, half sitting on a hospital bed, my legs akimbo and my gown hitched up around my knees, they stop short. One turns a funny shade of green, and looking at his shoes, starts to whistle tunelessly.

Yeah, because he’s the one in the awkward position… But wait. Henry is here?

“HENRY!” The tears pour down my face as he runs towards me and grabs my hand.

“I told you I’d be here!” He smiles down at me before winking at Jane who tactfully leaves the room, saying something about going to check on the kids.

I want to punch him, and I actually clench my fist, but another pain comes. Instead, I satisfy myself with squeezing his hand extra tight, making sure my engagement ring digs hard into him. To give him his dues, he doesn’t even cry out in pain, although I kind of wish he would.

“How did you get here? It takes hours to drive from Scotland,” I say when the pain passes. “I haven’t been here that long, have I?” I look around, disorientated.

“I jumped on the first plane here.” He smiles as he wipes my face and squeezes my snotty nose with a tissue. I feel a warm flush of pride grow on my cheeks. But wait a minute. This is Henry.

“You FLEW?” I’m unable to keep the disbelief from my voice. Henry would never pay for a direct flight; he won’t even pay for the train unless it’s on expenses.

Am I dreaming? Am I already in theatre? Have I died?

Laughing, he kisses my forehead and shrugs. “So, what’s happened? Where are we now?”

“Well, I got stuck in the door on the way in after the stupid car park attendant tried to give me a ticket, and I thought the removal men had kidnapped Mabel, but I found her hiding in a cupboard, and the nursery is all painted. I painted it pink and was about to pull the carpet up, but then Mabel did a poo on the toilet, and that’s when I think it all started. My waters broke on the stairs—don’t worry, I cleared it up. But then she threw up on the slide in the school playground and slid through it—she stinks—and I forgot to put the washing in the dryer, and oh God. I was so rude to the girl at your office. I’m sorry. I was just so scared and… oh… shit that hurts.” Another pain surges through me and snot bubbles come out of my nose. Great. I wipe my nose and cheek with his suit jacket.

“Shhh,” he says, pushing my hair away from my face. Then turning to the midwife, he murmurs, “Is she delirious?”

Before she has a chance to answer, the consultant returns. After a quick examination, he announces the baby is in distress.

No, I don’t want her to be in distress!

He fires out instructions to the room, which is suddenly full of people. Then he tells Henry and me that I have to go into surgery now, that it’s not too late, and that I can have an epidural. Henry is trying to stay calm for me, but he’s gone a bit pale and keeps clearing his throat. He clears it so often that I don’t catch everything the consultant says—something about where Henry needs to go while I’m going through to theatre?

Everything is happening so fast, and I’m terrified. I’m being wheeled off, and Henry is left outside on his own.

“I love you,” he shouts.

“Please don’t put me to sleep! I’m not ready to die yet! I want Henry… HENRY!” I sob, and the midwife comes to calm me down.

“Dottie,” she says, “listen to me. You aren’t going to sleep. We’re keeping you awake. Remember, you had an epidural with Mabel, didn’t you?” She’s gripping my hand and speaking firmly. “Henry can come in as soon as he’s scrubbed up, but we have to get to work now. The baby is in distress, so the sooner he or she is out, the better. Do you understand?”

Nodding my head slightly, I say, “She. It’s a girl. I want to name her Martha, but Henry doesn’t think having two Ms is a good idea.” I feel my breathing return to normal. “Maybe after going through this I can persuade him.”

That makes the midwife laugh. She holds my hand as the anaesthetist explains what’s going to happen.

By the time the needle has been inserted—it takes three attempts as I’m shaking so much—Henry is back by my side.

I have no idea what’s going on. I stare at the ceiling, at the blue screen constructed by a sheet, trying to work out what’s happening. Henry looks a bit green but keeps looking at me reassuringly, smiling and nodding as if everything is OK.

After what seems like ages, there is a bit of a kerfuffle, then, “Here we are. Wow, what a whopper!” But wait a minute. Now there’s silence.

Why isn’t she crying yet?

More silence, and I panic all over again as I watch/see the midwife wrap a pinky, purply, gross little body in a blanket.

“Is she OK? Is she breathing? Just bloody pinch her, OK?” There’s a ripple of laughter, which is quickly covered up by a few coughs, then I hear it.

First a whimpering that gets louder and louder, turning into a full-blown angry cry as they whip her off to get weighed. I’m crying again, Henry too, and he’s stroking my hair, and all of a sudden everything is perfect. Who cares about the horrible house, or a car that only has two back seats, or that Henry nearly missed the birth? He’s here now; we’re a wonderful family. Henry, Dottie, Arthur, Mabel and baby girl Martha.

“Well, he’s a healthy weight, that’s for sure,” the midwife says. “Nine pounds, thirteen ounces. And what a head! There’s no way you’d have turned this boy, and he obviously knew it!”

“She!” Henry and I both shout in unison, looking at the middle-aged woman who is carrying our still-crying daughter towards us. The baby’s blanket is already stained with blood.

Seriously, how is she allowed to be holding babies if she can’t even get the sex right?

“No, definitely not a she,” she says, smiling, “I’ve been doing this a very long time, and I can tell the difference, you know.” She winks as Henry and I glance at each other, confused. Then, lowering her arms so we can see the tiny scrunched-up red face, she says, “Congratulations! It’s a beautiful bouncing baby boy.”

About Aimee Horton

Aimee is from Lincoln, England, where she enjoys drinking gin and spending time with her family (and she won’t tell you which of those she prefers doing). As a child, one of her favourite parts of the summer holidays was to devour all the books in a little book shop in Devon. She continued reading at lightning speed right up until having children. She now reads with eyes propped open by match sticks.