Although Michelle was bossing everyone around, her voice was soft, managing to add the implication of manners. “Alayna, pick up some liquors, ones good for cocktails. Get Triple Sec; flavoured vodka, 42 below stuff, oh, feijoa; and Midori, her favourite. Molly, bring some dry lemonade and juice, and lemons. See if you can get limes, or just get some lime juice—“
Molly interrupted, scolding her daughter. “Nena, sit down. Stop bouncing on that chair, now. It’s not a trampoline. Sit. Don’t make me count. Thank you. Now, sit still.”
“Molly, hire a babysitter don’t leave it till the last minute.”
“And don’t rely on Lachlan to be home.”
Molly changed the subject. “Who’s bringing food?”
“Michelle. Bring chips and dip.”
“Can you see if you can get some strawberries and chocolate dip? George loves them.”
“Mmm, strawberries. Mum. Get me strawberries.”
“Nena. No. Be quiet.”
“Cheer up, Nena. If we can get some strawberries I’ll make sure your babysitter gives you some.”
“Don’t coddle her, Alayna. She’s so spoilt. Oh my goodness, don’t ever have children.”
“Safe from pregnancy here,” Alayna said, winking at Michelle.
“You’d adopt?” Molly asked, as if she hadn’t just told them to avoid children.
“We haven’t talked about it,” Michelle said losing her soft voice. Evie hoped it would be enough to end that strand of conversation.
“Right,” Alayna nipped in before Molly could pursue the matter, “I’ll get booze, Michelle sorts food and Molly, you sort mixers. Do we do presents as well, or are we calling the party a present from all of us?”
“I doubt I could get away with spending money on a present as well.” No-one brought Lachlan up this time, wary of Nena’s eager ears taking everything in.
“I don’t have the money. So just the party.”
“Michelle, you do invites.”
“Okay. Hey, Evie, come to George’s birthday party. Saturday week, 7pm, George’s house. Be there.”
“Bring Karl too,” Alayna added, “I’m hanging out to meet him.”
“Karl? Say more.” Molly said, she had no idea what was going on these days.
“Boyfriend,” Evie said, hoping they’d see her reluctance to talk about him.
“We know nothing beyond his name.”
“Evie, you’re holding out on us. Come on. Is he handsome?”
Evie hauled herself forward, sat on the edge of the couch, mustered a serious look and directed it at Michelle and Alayna. “Ladies, he’s enough to turn you straight. It’s for your own sake I don’t introduce him to you.”
Molly laughed, falling back on the couch beside Evie. Evie smiled politely and hoped there would be no more questions..
“Impossible,” declared Michelle.
“What’s funny, Mum? What?”
“Never mind, Nena. Your Mum has a silly sense of humour,” Alayna said.
“Can we go home, Mum? I want to play with my dolls. Mum? Stop laughing.”
Molly wiped tiny tears from the corners of her eyes. “Evie, if he’s that good, you hold onto him. Good men are hard to find. Some of us…” sobered, she looked at Nena, “…well.” She shrugged.
“Get ready to go then, Nena.” Alayna distracted the little girl from her mum. “Find your shoes.”
“You find them.”
“Nena. Don’t. Go and find your shoes.”
“Be patient with her, Moll, four’s a hard age.” Alayna murmured once Nena had stamped out of the room.
“So was three, and two, and one. There’s no age that’s not hard.”
“You’re trying to have another one,” Michelle reminded her. “Surely it’s not all bad if you want more.”
Molly grunted, unable to argue with that logic.
“Admit it, you have fun,” Alayna pressed.
“Fine,” Molly said, “but, really, whether you adopt or whatever, think seriously about what you’re getting into. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.”