It’s nearly Yuletide and time for The Ghost Hunters’ Club Christmas Special. Anna’s got a bun in the oven and when she goes to the garden centre to pick up her son’s new hamster, she gets more than she bargained for...
The Ghost Hunters’ Club will be free from 24th – 26th December. Merry Christmas and the Ghost Hunters’ Club hope that Santa fills your stocking!
Next week: the L K Jay 2013 Annual Awards.
‘Buurrpp. Ugh, sorry, being this pregnant has given me terrible wind.’
‘Nice,’ said Adam. He went back to poring over the spreadsheet he was studying and then looked back at Anna.
She ran her hand over her heavy belly and puffed out her cheeks. ‘I wish this thing would come out of me soon.’
‘It’s a baby Anna, not a thing,’ said Adam, ‘and unless you’re going to give birth in the next few minutes, would you mind having a quick look at these numbers and then I can start to work out how much money we’ll owe the tax man. This tax return won’t fill in itself.’
‘Go on then, what’s the damage?’ She looked over the figures of her new financial business that she had started with her old colleague Adam, who worked at the train company that her partner Graham owned. And by partner, Graham was also the father of her baby, which was due any day.
‘Do you know what you’re having?’ said Adam.
‘A baby, apparently,’ said Anna.
‘I mean the sex Anna, what will your baby be?’
‘There was definitely sex involved,’ said Anna.
‘Give over and give me that computer back,’ said Adam. ‘So what do you think? Not too shoddy for our first few months?’
‘Not too shoddy at all,’ said Anna.
Adam signed the form and then passed it over to Anna to countersign. ‘You just need to post this to the tax office before the end of the week and then we’ll be sorted. Tax done, profits made, thank you very much.’
Anna hauled herself up and puffed out her cheeks as she went to answer the front door and let Adam out. ‘Yes?’
Standing in front of her was a young man wearing an elf costume. His skinny green legs stuck out from the rest of his garish green uniform. ‘You’re working on Christmas Eve?’ said Anna.
‘No, I like dressing up like this,’ said the youth.
‘And you’re old enough to drive that van?’ said Anna.
‘And you’re young enough to have that baby?’ said the elf.
‘Touché my friend,’ said Anna. ‘Are you going to have a rummage in your sack and give me a present?’ said Anna.
‘I think it’s a bit late for that love,’ said the elf courier. ‘Unless it’s the second coming you’re having. So are you Mr Graham Wilson? Only my shift is nearly over and these tights are starting to itch.’
‘Yes son, yes I am,’ said Anna.
The elf raised one eyebrow, which was an impressive skill for an elf of such tender years.
‘He’s my partner and yes, the father of this,’ said Anna.
‘Do you know what you’re having?’ said the elf.
‘A chuffing baby,’ said Anna. ‘I’m not the Duchess of Cambridge you know.’
The elf looked Anna up and down. ‘That you are definitely not.’
‘As much as I’m enjoying this conversation, give me that envelope before I go all King Herod on you.’
‘Who?’ said the elf.
Anna gave him a look and he handed it over. ‘Where’s it from?’
‘Effing Nazareth,’ said the elf.
‘Why thank you for your Christmas cheer,’ said Anna, ‘now take your tip and go away. Anna slipped the elf a twenty pound note.
‘Thank you kind lady, and may I say how young and fresh faced you’re looking,’ said the elf.
Anna rolled her eyes and shut the door. She looked at the envelope, on the front it said ‘Star Enterprise’ and was indeed addressed to Graham, Anna’s partner. She pulled out her phone.
‘Yes?’ he answered. ‘To whom am I speaking?’
‘Me you idiot,’ said Anna.
‘You’re not getting any less grumpy then?’ said Graham.
‘Shut up and listen. My ankles are swelling and my boobs are about to explode and not in a good way. You've got a package from “Star Enterprise” do you want me to open it for you?’
‘Go on. I think they might be the tickets for the train drivers’ Christmas party,’ said Graham.
‘So nice of them to invite you,’ said Anna, ‘seeing as you own the company.’
Anna ripped open the envelope and a map with directions to the venue with a star that indicated ‘here’s the party!’
‘That them?’ said Graham.
‘Yes, although, hang on, bloody hell Graham, the party’s on tonight!’
‘Opps,’ said Graham. ‘Oh well, put on your party frock, we might as well.’
‘I’m nine months pregnant,’ said Anna.
‘I had noticed,’ said Graham. ‘Look, I’ll be home soon and we only have to pop in for a couple of hours.’
‘Okay, I've got to post this tax return and go to the garden centre to pick up Ben’s new hamster ready for tomorrow. See you later.’
Anna ended the call. She waddled to the kitchen, put the forms into the envelope and wrote the address. She was tempted to write ‘Robbin’ Bastards’ on the front but ‘Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue’ was probably more appropriate. She stuffed it into her handbag, picked up her car keys and squeezed herself behind the wheel of her old Volkswagen estate, which she had recently nicknamed ‘little donkey.’
She pulled into the car park of the garden centre. It was quite a sight but then again, it had been quite a year. She’d gone from being a widow, haunted by her horrid ex-husband and then ending up with one of her best friends, the goofy Graham. The pregnancy had been a bit of a surprise but hey, they were minted now. She entered the garden complex; it had a post box, where she deposited her tax return and made her way in. Her other two children were staying with their grandparents until Christmas day, when they would come back to Anna and Graham’s house and they would all have dinner together.
The place looked as if Santa had been violently sick inside. Flashing lights were everywhere and everything, even the small animal cages, was covered in tinsel. She needed a cup of tea before she would drive back and so she wobbled to the café with the small and confused looking little hamster scurrying around its travel cage. As soon as she entered, her face broke out into a massive grin.
Standing in the queue were Linda and Karen. Next to Linda was her new fiancé, David.
‘Anna!’ A mass hug ensued.
‘What are you doing here?’ said Anna. ‘I thought you were all going to Edinburgh?’
‘We changed our plans,’ said Linda, ‘seeing as Karen’s on her own because Paul’s not going to be back from Afghanistan until the New Year. We were going to surprise you later.
‘You've done that already,’ said Anna.
‘What have you got there?’ asked David.
‘A hamster. Apparently he’s going to be called Paul, after my horrid first husband. Bloody thing. What have you got there Karen?’
‘A hoe, I've taken up a bit of light gardening.’
Anna sniggered. ‘Nice hoe.’
‘Thanks, thought I’d use it as prop for my Christmas twerking later,’ said Karen.
‘Aren't you nearly about to pop Anna?’ said Linda.
‘Hell yes, and if I don’t soon then it’ll burst out me like in Alien.’
‘Nice image,’ said Linda.
Anna grinned. ‘You have so much to look forward to when you marry David and you start producing sprogs.’
Linda pulled a face. ‘Ugh, do I have to?’
‘Yes darling, you do,’ said David, ‘because I’m afraid that’s one thing I can’t do for you and besides, the Wallis name needs an heir.’
‘So that’s why you want me, a viable baby-making machine,’ said Linda.
David grabbed Linda playfully around the waist and tickled her, making her squeal in a very uncharacteristic way.’
‘Will you two lovebirds pack it in!’ said Anna.
‘Give over, spoilsport,’ said Linda, giggling.
‘No, really, give over,’ said Anna. Her face fell and her tone dropped an octave.
‘Christ Anna, you look like a ghost,’ said Karen.
‘Ew,’ said Anna. ‘I’d step away if I was you.’
They all looked down; in between Anna’s feet was a puddle of water.
‘Ohh,’ was all that they heard from Anna for the next few minutes. She clutched her large bump, making sure that she handed the hamster over to Karen first, and then sat down in one of the seats and puffed out her cheeks.
‘Whoa,’ was all that came out of the mouths of Karen, Linda and David. The hamster said nothing.
‘Ohhh buuugggeeerrr,’ cried Anna.
A startled looking shop assistant came trotting over. ‘Madam, please, can you keep your– oh bugger.’
‘I think you’d better call me an ambulance,’ said Anna, in between puffs.
‘Are you ...?’ said Linda.
‘Yes mate, I’m having a baby, and it looks like it will be in a garden centre.’
‘You can’t have it here; it’ll contravene health and safety rules,’ said the shop assistant.
‘What’s your name?’ said Linda.
‘My name is Mary, how may I help you?’
‘Well then Mary, dial 999 right now and get that ambulance, before Anna here decides to sue for lack of care. Do it now,’ said Linda.
Mary did as she was told. Linda and David hauled up Anna by her armpits and led her near to the front entrance of the shop, ready for the arrival of the ambulance. The only things available for Anna to sit on were some bales of hay that made up part of the Christmas display. Anna was puffing her cheeks, rubbing her stomach, sweat soaking the fringe of her hair.
‘I've rung Graham, he says he’s only a few minutes away,’ said Linda.
Mary trotted over. ‘The ambulance says it’s going to be about thirty minutes, traffic’s bad apparently.’
‘Ohhhhhhh,’ cried Anna again. ‘I don’t know if I've got that long.’
‘Holy Mother of God, we need a miracle,’ said David.
A small crowd of shoppers was gathering, but they were being ushered out of the doors by the manager and some more assistants. Karen, still holding the hamster in its small travel container, growled at the gawkers and brandished her newly acquired hoe. An older woman stepped forward. She had greying hair pulled back into a bun and was neatly dressed.
‘May I be of assistance?’ she asked. She knelt down and felt Anna’s stomach. ‘I don’t think you have long to go.’
‘Who? What?’ said Karen, Linda and David.
‘My name is Jo Christian and I’m a retired midwife.’
The last of the shoppers were ushered out of the shop and Jo got to work. ‘Ladies, and gentleman, would you mind having a look around the home section and getting me some towels? I think we’ll have use of those soon.’
‘Yes ma’am,’ said Karen.
‘Nice hoe,’ said Jo.
‘Thanks,’ said Karen.
‘Have I missed anything?’ said Graham. ‘Whoa, looks like I’m just in time.’
‘Nearly there Anna,’ said Jo. ‘Now when I say push, you push.’
Linda was dabbing Anna’s forehead with a cool facecloth; Mary and the store manager were trying not to look and Karen and David were still holding the hoe and the hamster.
‘And here we go,’ said Jo. ‘Congratulations Anna, you have a daughter.’
The midwife made short work of the umbilical cord and wrapped the little girl in a rather nice Egyptian cotton bath towel, which apparently were in the early sale.
‘Thank you Jo,’ said Anna. ‘I shall call our daughter Joanne.’
‘Lots of little girls are,’ said Jo.
‘Woo hoo!’ The little crowd turned to see Chaz and Mark. ‘Linda rang me, fortunately we were at Mark’s family for the holidays. ‘Is it ... whoa.’
There was Anna, with Graham’s arm around her and their new daughter Jo, wrapped in a towel and laying in a plant trough that was filled with hay.
‘It looks just l like the nativity scene,’ said Chaz. ‘We've got the three wise men and we’re the jolly gay shepherds.’
‘And my gloves are made of real sheepskin,’ said Mark. ‘Nice hoe Karen.’
‘Thanks,’ said Karen.
The manager and Mary came back with a shopping basket that was full of goods.
‘On behalf of Stables Garden and Homes store, I would like to offer these complimentary gifts. We have a gold coloured name plate with ‘Joanne’ on it, some Frankincense candles and Molten Brown bath products. We couldn't find any Myrrh.’
Karen had to put her hoe down and gave the hamster to David to hold as her phone rang. She answered it and smiled. ‘It’s Paul, calling from Afghanistan; Christmas miracle number two.’
Two men dressed in dark green uniforms ran through the doors. ‘Hello, we’re Peter and Paul the paramedics, who called for an ambulance?’