(Please scroll down to read parts 1 & 2)
"Haa-py Birth-day dear Eye-sac, happy birthday to yooo!"
Catching sight of Molly's pudgy fingers about to lunge in for the pillage, Ellie swings the cake out of range. only to set it directly in the path of four-year old Daisy, who, not missing a beat, promptly blows out two of the seven candles.
Outraged, Isaac thumps her, and she starts screaming high, blue, bloody murder.
"Oiy-yoy-yoy, you, pack it in!"
Inhaling to maximum lung capacity, she hiccups between sobs,"He hiiiit me.."
Ellie nods, "I know - Isaac, be nice! Say sorry."
He glares, unrepentant. "Stupid."
"No, she's not stupid, but you are BOTH very silly, now say sorry, and Daisy, say sorry too, for blowing his candles out."
Molly feels cheated. "Meeee, Iwannablow!"
Candles re-lit, Isaac makes his wish and valiantly tries to puff them out. Their Dad, Ellie's husband, Peter, finally steps in to help, freeing them up to repeat the process again so Molly can have her turn.
"How about you, Max, you want a go, too?"
Proving even mature eight year old's are occasionally game for a laugh, he obligingly shrugs, nodding for Peter to re-light the candles for him.
A brief respite follows as everyone tucks in. Henry asks Peter if he's up for football training on Tuesday night, but he tells him sorry, no, he's scheduled to travel up to Liverpool to meet with clients on Tuesday, but he'll still be up for the match on Saturday.
Henry's been playing for The Woodbourne, aka The Woody, their local watering hole, ever since Peter introduced him to the team, around two years ago. Having both Ellie and Henry's wife, Paige, best friends together since virtually forever, it only comfortably followed Henry and Peter should also eventually strike up an easy going enough friendship together, especially with Paige as Isaac's Godmother.
Peter interrupts the conversation to intercept the delinquent hound, about to wrap his jaws around the near-demolished remnants of left-over cake. Hoisting him out the door, he evicts him, mid-drool, into the yard, hopefully to sit and contemplate the error of his ways.
Unfortunately, all the neighbour's do so too, with all the howling.
Ah, well, Ellie muses, re-entering the room after loading up the dishwasher, at least he's stopped eating the presents, as she wearily plops herself down on the sofa, next to Paige.
"Sometimes I feel like the old woman who lives in a shoe."
"I don't know how you do it."
A spat starts to brew over the new toys, but she holds back, allowing Peter to intervene.
"Just how many cars can one child own?"
"I know, I wish I could wean him over on to something else, but he's completely obsessed."
Molly scrambles up for a cuddle, squelching her freshly-ish filled nappy down on Ellie's lap.
Molly looks up innocently at her, giggling, "Ut-oh!"
Wrinkling her nose, Ellie suppresses a laugh. "C'mon stinky-bum, up we go."
She makes to lead her upstairs, when the phone rings. Next to standing on the long-suffering mutt, Isaac's favourite past-time is to be the first one to reach any in-coming calls, so he can quickly slam the receiver back down. Blinkingly annoying, yes, but being over-sensitised to certain sounds, Ellie knows he often finds the ringing too alarming to deal with, which is why she sprints so quickly to answer it.
"Ellie? Hi, it's Melissa - from the gym? How are you?"
"Oh gosh, yes, hello - how nice to hear from you."
"Yeah, well I was just thinking about you,the other day. I was talking to Suzanne, do you remember her?"
As if she could forget. "Suzanne? Goodness, yes, of course. How is she?"
"Oh, you know, same as ever. Anyways, we've decided it's high time we all got together, Julie too - er, you do remember Julie, don't you? Used to be in publishing, oh, what's the name of that firm..?"
"Brown & Mather."
"YES! I knew you knew her. She moved on from there yonks ago. Suzanne told her I'd bumped into you, and she said to tell you that we should do a lunch sometime."
"Really?" Maybe she'd mellowed.
Molly tries to wrench the phone from her ear to say hello, but Ellie holds fast. Much offended, she swings from Ellie's hair to inadvertently head-butt her.
"Ut, nothing. What were you saying?"
"Yeah, I thought we might try out that new place, the French one on the corner of Holmes Street, I hear-tell the chef there is fab. Can you make it for the 20th? That's a Thursday."
"Um, I dunno. Well, I guess so. Let me check and come back to you. What time?" Untangling Molly, she reaches for a nearby crayon to scrawl the details down on the side of a box of tissues.
"Fantastic, that's great! Well, unless I hear otherwise, we'll look forward to seeing you there, then."
And she's gone.
Recognising her bemused expression, Peter raises an eyebrow in askance.
"That was Melissa. She's asked me to lunch."
He shrugs, "Didn't you say she would?"
"Well, no, it's just.. I'm hardly what you might call pally with her, am I? We haven't spoken to each other in years, and even when we did, we weren't exactly bosom buddies."
"So? You should go. Be a laugh."
Ellie's unconvinced, they hardly ever had that much in common even way back when when they did vaguely know each other, so what on earth would they find to talk about in common now? Still.. it might be fun to leave the t-shirt and jeans at home for a day, be Ellie as opposed to just mum or wifey for a change.
"Yeah," she says, Why not? Maybe I just might, at that."