Chapter Twenty Six: Surprises

“So, it’s your birthday in a week or two,” Mum says in a too-casual voice.

We’re all sat in front of the TV, watching Coronation Street; Gerard’s out. I’m not sure where, he just said he had to go out.

I sigh. “Yes, it is,” I agree.

“What do you want to do for it, then?” Mum smiles.


Giselle stares at me as if I’ve grown an extra head. “You don’t want anything? Not even a party?”

“I don’t want too much fuss. I’d rather have a meal at home or something,” I reply with a small sigh. “Y’know me, I don’t want anything too over the top.”

“Are you sure?” Mum frowns. “I could invite your friends over.”

“I don’t have any friends,” I say slowly. “Not anymore. They all know I’m back but not one of them has made any attempt to talk to me.” Mum frowns a bit more, so I sigh. “Mum, I really, really don’t mind. I’d rather have a meal.”

“Okay,” Mum concedes. “Who do you want to come?”

“Well, you...Giselle...Callum...”

“What about Francesca?” Giselle pipes up.

I screw my face up. “Does she have to?” I whine.

“Layla, she’s your sister,” Mum tells me.

“Yes, I know, but she’s not being very sisterly with me,” I gripe. “I’m sure if you invited her she’d make up some bad excuse and say she can’t come because her printer jammed.”

Giselle and Callum find that funny and begin to laugh; Mum stays stony-faced for a moment or two before smiling slightly.

“I’ll invite her,” Mum decides. “Okay?”

I shrug. “I guess.”

“Don’t you want Gerard to come?” Callum says slyly.

“Of course he’s coming,” Giselle snaps as if speaking to a small child. “He’s like, her best friend.”

Callum smirks. “I think he’s a bit more than that.”

I throw my cushion at him and stare at the TV.

“What?” Giselle sits up a little straighter and scoots closer to her brother, her eyes wide.

“I walked in on them the other day about to kiss,” Callum announces. I throw another cushion at him, a blush creeping across my face.

“I knew it!” Giselle squeals. “I thought you two were acting differently together.”

“Well, we always knew you would,” Mum joins in. “You two suit each other, Layla.”

“I’ve not even said we are together!” I cry, my face bright red.

“Are you?”

“Well, yes, but –”

“Good,” Giselle says happily.

Gerard walks in then, looking very pleased about something. None of us heard him come in. Giselle and Callum take one look at him and begin to giggle (childishly).

“What?” Gerard frowns, stepping out of his shoes then sitting on the floor in front of me, looking curiously at my siblings. When they fail to give him an answer, he looks questioningly at me, twisting his head round.

“We were talking about you and me,” I tell him.

“Oh.” He grins at me. “Was it all good?” he asks.


“You two,” Giselle begins to inform him, “make a good couple.”

“Glad you think so,” Gerard says. “I agree,” he adds.

“What were you doing?” I ask him after a few moments pass.

“I had to go and speak to someone,” Gerard shrugs in reply.

“We have a house phone.”

“I know.”

“Then why did you –?”

“You’ll find out soon,” he promises. “In a few days.”

“Is it anything to do with my birthday?” I frown.

Gerard’s head twists round again, a grin on his face. “Maybe...”

I groan. “It’s not a surprise, is it?”

“Maybe,” he repeats.

“I hate surprises.”

“Yeah, people usually do, but they always enjoy the surprise once they realise what it is.” He smiles at me, and takes my hands and drapes them round his neck. “And, I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed with my surprise...”