As Daniel and Danielle walked into the dining room, where the rest of the girls were busily devouring the selection of pizza and sides scattered across the table, the loud chatter died down to a deathly silence, and all of them stood open mouthed, taking in the sight before them, unable to believe what they were seeing.
“I…er, I hope you don’t mind Em, but I found this nightie of yours for Danielle to borrow. Thought that as we were all doing the ‘cozy and snuggly’ thing then she should join in too.”
Danielle blushed as all eyes fell on her, embarrassed not only by what she was wearing, but also how she had behaved earlier.
“I’m sorry for being such an idiot! I shouldn’t have caused a scene and tried to shame Dan like that. Hope I’ve not spoiled things for you Em?”
Emily was perhaps the most taken aback of the group, seeing Danielle stood before her dressed in her most childish nightie, one that even she wouldn’t wear around anybody else. She didn’t know what magic Dan had worked upstairs, but the change in her attitude was remarkable, and very much appreciated, as she had been worried about a dark cloud being cast over the whole sleepover if she’d carried on being so moody.
“Course I don’t mind Dan…good choice I’d say. It suits you Danielle!” She couldn’t help giggling a little as she said this, a wide and cheeky grin breaking out across her face. “Never had you down as a sheep nightie kinda girl, haha. Don’t worry about it, come on, if Dan’s happy then as far as I’m concerned it’s all forgotten about.” And she held out her hand for shaking, much as they were always told to do in school if anybody fell out.
Danielle accepted the handshake, returned the warm smile, and glanced around the group to gauge their reactions. Whilst the others, Lucy and Becky in particular, didn’t look quite so happy as Em did, she couldn’t sense any obvious animosity. It was perfectly understandable that they’d be a bit narked after how she’d behaved, but hopefully she’d be able to win them back around.
“Saved you a slice of Tuna and Sweetcorn, Danielle. That’s still your favourite, isn’t it?” Katie held up a pizza slice, waving it temptingly towards her friend, and with the icy tension released they all set back to work demolishing the mountain of food before them.
Whilst they were eating, Lisa was busy in the kitchen making the promised hot chocolates, hoping that the warm drink may help to settle the kids down ready for bed. Remembering Daniel’s little problem, she made a point of making few large mugs along with a couple of smaller ones, realising that he may not want to risk such a big drink right before bed. Well, maybe ‘right before bed’ was being a little optimistic she thought with a laugh, but late in the evening at any rate. Somehow, judging by the level of noisy chatter and laughter which was now filtering through from the dining room she had a feeling that sleep was not on the agenda any time soon.
Topping off the mugs with generous swirls of squirty cream, sprinkles and even a flake each, making them into more of a dessert than a bedtime drink, Lisa carefully balanced them on a large tray and carried them triumphantly in to the children.
“Here you go, hot chocolates as promised, with a few little extras too…to make them really special!”
The girls whooped and cheered, and Lesley was pleased to note that Danielle seemed much happier now than she had looked earlier in the evening, joining in as they all thanked her enthusiastically for their unexpected treat. It was Daniel who looked a little downcast as she announced the drinks, although she did notice him smile as he looked at the tray, and then selected the smallest of the mugs, and she tipped him a discreet wink as he took his drink. Clearly it had been a good decision, and she was glad that she’d thought about it rather than making him feel uncomfortable and creating additional worry for him, as clearly she had no idea that his secret was now fully out in the open.
“Ooh, cheesy garlic bread! Do you mind if a pinch a slice?”
“Muuuuuum! You’re supposed to be on a diet, remember.” Em shook her head, picking up the box and pretending to hold it away from Lisa and laughing. “But, as you’ve made up such awesome hot chocolates, go on then, just one tiny little piece.”
“Cheeky little madam!” Lisa called out in mock admonishment, before swiping the box from her daughter’s hands and helping herself to the biggest, stringiest piece that was left, and exaggeratedly licking her lips as she too a large bite. “Mmmmmm, you’re right, I really shouldn’t, but the does taste soooo good!”
Before long, the pizza boxes were empty and the mugs had been drained. It was now well after 11pm, and Lisa thought it was time they all started to settle down a little, even if there was no realistic prospect of sleep any time soon.
“Ok you lot, just this once I’m not going to ask for any help with the washing up, but that’s on the condition that you take yourself off upstairs, and please try to keep the noise down so we don’t disturb the neighbours too much. I guess it’s too much to ask that you go to bed, but I’m sure you can occupy yourselves in Emily’s room until you do feel sleepy. Off you go, and no arguments please!”
Realising that they’d basically just been given permission to stay up as late as they liked, so long as they were out of the way upstairs, and not wanting to push their incredible good luck, they thanked Lisa one at a time and then as calmly and quietly as they could made their way back up the stairs, only turning their volume back up a few notches once the bedroom door was closed behind them.
“Ok, what now?” Em asked, surveying her group of friends. “I’m guessing nobody wants to go to sleep just yet?”
They all thought for a moment, and then Lucy spoke up. “I know…how about a game of truth or dare?”1
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