Great book for Christian girls who want to make a difference with their lives, and non-church girls who have no idea what being a Christian really means.
That week didn’t exactly get off to a good start in several ways. I wasn’t in a very good mood to begin with, if I’m honest. Getting ready for school Monday morning, first day back after the October half-term, my head was still reeling with the news we’d been told the night before.
It was one of the weekends that the step-siblings – all four of them – had come to stay. Maxwell is a year younger than me, 13, the twins Ben and Jade nearly 11, and Billie is seven. With my sister Ruth, 12, my mum and step-dad Ted, not to mention the pets, we’re quite a houseful.
But we’d had a good time that weekend. No quarrels to speak of, no major differences, no accidents, nobody going down with a sore throat or a sniffle or coming out in a rash. (Except for one annoying spot that appeared on my chin.) We’d gone out into the countryside on Saturday, walked the dog in the woods all in autumn colours, with piles of fallen leaves crackling under our feet and the smell of damp earth and wood smoke from someone’s bonfire. Mum and Ted were holding hands and looking soppy, the kids were kicking leaves about and climbing trees, and we had lunch at a pub. I had quite an interesting conversation with Max about earthworms. He’s coming on a lot, that boy!
Then on Sunday we had a morning in the garden and a barbecue and bonfire after church. Ted has to take the Steps back to their grandparents on Sunday evening, and they were just about packed and ready when Mum asked us all to come into the sitting room for a moment as they had something to tell us. We all trooped in, quieter than usual. The last time this had happened it had been to break the news of the death of the Steps’ mother, Ted’s first wife. It had happened only weeks ago and was fresh in all of our minds. Surely something else bad couldn’t have happened?
But Mum and Ted didn’t look sad at all. In fact, both of them had big grins. They looked at each other and then at us.
“We wanted to tell you when you were all here together,” began Mum, and was interrupted by several voices.
“Tell us what?”
“Is it a surprise?”
“Are we going to Disneyworld?” This from Billie, who is crazy about princesses, fairies and magical castles.
Ted shook his head. “’Fraid not, sweetie. Not any time soon, at least.”
“Are we getting a pony?” asked Ruth hopefully.
“Not a pony,” said Mum tantalisingly, and then, as though she couldn’t hold it in any longer, she burst out, “We are getting something wonderful, though! A baby!”
For a moment there was just a kind of stunned silence. I looked round at the other faces. Max had a kind of puzzled expression, as though he hadn’t worked out that when people are married they sometimes have babies. Ruth’s mouth had fallen open into a round O shape and her eyes were out on stalks. Ben looked faintly embarrassed and I saw for a moment a flicker of disappointment cross Jade’s face. She and Ruth would have been in their element if we’d really been getting a pony! Billie looked completely bewildered. She’d been the baby for so long that she probably didn’t know what to think. I sympathised totally. Whatever I’d been expecting, it certainly wasn’t this. I didn’t know what to think either.
The silence lasted only a second or two, but it seemed longer. Mum and Ted were looking round at us, eagerly waiting for our reactions, holding their breath almost.
Then Max seemed to pull himself together and he smiled in what seemed to be a totally genuine way. Trust him to do the right thing! He could always be a bit of a creep! For one awful moment I thought he was going to shake Ted by the hand! But he just gave them both a hug and said, “Well, congratulations.”
Mum and Ted both looked relieved. Ruth closed her mouth, blinked a couple of times and then did the same. A sudden buzz of chatter broke out among the others.
“Will it be a boy? We’ve got enough girls in this family!”
“Where will it sleep?”
“Will it be here for Christmas?”
“Can I push it in the pram?”
Mum was laughing and doing her best to answer. The baby would be here around the end of May, she said. I could see she and Ted were both as pleased as punch. Then she looked over the heads of the others and caught my eye.
“What do you think, Rachel?”
Well, I didn’t quite mean to, but I was still so gobsmacked I said the first thing that came into my head. My mind was a turmoil of shock, dismay, doubt and something that might just have been fear. I heard myself say, in horribly prim-sounding tones, “But you can’t have a baby, Mum! I mean, you’re 40! Forty plus!”
Her smile slipped a little, but she said, “Don’t be silly! Lots and lots of women have babies in their forties these days. It’s quite safe, and I’m fit as a fiddle.” Her eyes pleaded with me to be pleased for them both, but I pretended not to see. Something was always happening to spoil things. My dad had died. I’d had awful trouble getting used to the Steps at first, especially Max. Then their mum had died. Things had been just beginning to get better. And now this! The last thing I wanted was a crying, demanding, smelly baby in the house. We were crowded enough as it was. And she needn’t expect me to change nappies or push it round in the pram! People might think it was mine!
I didn’t say any of this. I even managed to apologise, and say I was pleased too, lying through my teeth.
There was a lot more hugging and kissing, and chattering and laughing, and the Steps were a whole hour late starting for home. I went off to my room, and was glad that Ruth wouldn’t be sharing with me tonight, now that the others had gone. Not that it made any difference though, because she came in right after me to pick up some of her stuff. She sat down on the other bed and I could see she wanted to discuss this turn of events.
“It’s exciting, isn’t it? This baby will really be related to every one of us. It’ll kind of link us all together, won’t it?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said grumpily, rummaging in my school bag. “If you don’t mind, I’ve got homework to do.”
“You can’t have. We did it all before the weekend. But if you’re in a mood, I’ll go. You could act a bit more pleased though. Mum and Ted are really happy.”
Ruth is two years younger than me but sometimes she’s a lot more sensible. Often nicer too, I have to admit. She went off and I picked up my mobile. It was too late to call all my mates, but I might catch one or two of them. Texting wouldn’t be quite the same, I wanted to hear a sympathetic voice. I tried Willow first but she was in the bath. Then Amber, who I thought might understand because her mum had her little sister when most of her kids were almost grown up. I must have been mumbling, because Amber misheard me and almost burst my eardrum with a loud shriek.
“PREGNANT? You’re PREGNANT?”
Amber is a terrible drama queen and so is Ruth, though Mum says I can put on a pretty good performance myself when I want to. I quickly set her straight.
“Not me, you dork! My mum. My mum’s pregnant. Can you believe it?”
If I’d expected understanding and sympathy, I didn’t get it. Amber thought the whole thing was hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing. When she began picturing the child as a kind of mini-Maxwell, I knew it was time to say goodnight, switch off the phone and go to bed.
The perfect ending to a lovely weekend – not.
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