Oh, God. Ally was in the clutches of a hangover before she'd even opened her eyes, her head throbbing on the pillow, her gut churning and threatening to spill at the slightest movement. Her eyelids refused to lift but that was fine by Ally. She didn't want to open her eyes anyway. A whimper escaped her dry lips as it dawned on her what day it was.
It was her birthday.
'Oh no.' The words were barely distinguishable as they bubbled from her lips. She reached out for Gavin, needing the comfort of his familiar skin against her own but the bed was empty. 'Gavin?' She prised her eyes open and eased herself into a sitting position. Her head felt like concrete, heavy and solid as she attempted to keep it upright.
The bedroom was empty and she knew Gavin wasn't in the shower as he was the world's loudest cleanser, the shower radio blaring almost as loudly as Gavin's singing. Ally was sure even the volume of the gushing water was raised when Gavin stepped under the stream.
But there was no sound emitting from the bathroom. The rumpled sheets beside Ally were still warm so he hadn't been gone that long. Ally squinted at the clock and groaned when she realised her alarm would be yelling at her any minute now. Gavin must have sneaked off to work early in a huff after their row last night.
Well, stuff him. If he wanted to sulk, let him sulk. It was her birthday and she should be enjoying the day, being pampered and having her mind taken off the fact that she was another year closer to receiving her free bus pass, not worrying about stupid quarrels.
Ally's throbbing brain sighed with relief as she sank back down into the pillow, closing her scratchy eyes to make the most of the final two minutes before she had to punch her alarm.
'Happy birthday, darling.'
Ally lifted one eyelid and, in spite of her lethargic muscles, managed to smile up at her husband.
'What are you doing?'
Gavin glanced down at the breakfast tray in his hands and then at his wife. 'Breakfast in bed.' What else could he be doing with a tray of tea and toast? 'I'm sorry about last night. I don't mean to go on at you, but we're in our thirties now. We need to start thinking about this kind of thing.'
Ally's smile drooped into a scowl. 'What is this? Breakfast in bed or a lecture? I don't want to think about babies. I don't want to think about anything right now. I've got a raging hangover and want to die.'
'You never want to think about babies, hangover or not.' Gavin dumped the breakfast tray on the bed and Ally had to leap to steady it before the tea sloshed onto the covers. The sudden action caused her to retch but nothing came up. Closing her eyes, she took deep breaths to calm the nausea and when she opened them again, the room was empty. The front door slammed shut a moment later, followed by the piercing squeal of her alarm and the noise of both made Ally wince in pain.
Why did she need a baby when she was already married to the biggest, sulkiest baby of all?
Ally was not in the mood for the bus ride to work, with every sharp turn and sudden stop making her want to chuck up her breakfast. The air was stuffy, the seats cramped and there was a kid in a buggy kicking hell out of the side of the bus. The metallic thump, thump, thump was driving her crazy, so it was a relief to finally emerge into the fresh air, away from the noise and chatter. Westerly's Coach Tours was a short walk from the bus stop, but it was nowhere near enough to clear her head before she limped into the building.
'You look how I feel.' Francine flashed a tiny smile of solidarity from behind her reception desk as Ally threw herself into one of the plush blue chairs in the waiting area. 'We had way too much to drink last night.' Ally nodded, unable to speak as her mouth was dry and fuzzy. 'It didn't help that Maisie was up three times during the night.'