Alfie was in a stinking mood. He was stomping around the house like a petulant child because today was father's day. Only apparently Alfie's four kids had completely forgotten all about it, along with their mother as well. Well, alright baby Jacob was just over a year old so he couldn't really take any of the blame, and maybe little Soraiya Sunshine couldn't either, but the older two; his Hannah Bear and Raisa Roo definitely would have known father's day was coming up because school usually sent them home with crappy little handmade cards that actually meant quite a lot to the recipient if truth be told. And even if he did somehow manage to excuse his two older children, he wasn't sure he could do the same for Ava; especially not when he had gone all out on mother's day for her and was kind of expecting the same back. Now of course people weren't supposed to give to receive but Alfie didn't think it was too much to expect a little bit of fuss. Fair enough, he weren't the one doing all the cleaning and feeding and bath times and getting up in the night, but he was the one who put food on the table and… well, alright he paid for the food and Ava cooked it but that was by the by, wasn't it? Basically he was just as important and he deserved to be shown as much. And as if their forgetting his special day wasn't rude enough, Ava had also took the children out for the day to visit her parents for the day. They had left at the crack of dawn while Alfie was still half asleep and he thought they might have at least left him a card and present on the kitchen table. But no, they left him nothing.
The phone began to ring and its shrill tone made Alfie cringe. He just knew it was going to be something work related, because there was nobody else who would be phoning him on a Sunday lunchtime.
"What?" he growled down the phone.
"Alfie?" a breathless voice answered him. "Is that you?"
"No it's the Queen of Sheba," he tutted upon hearing Ollie's fraught tone. "Of course fuckin' me you muppet."
"Right of course," Ollie mumbled. "Well, I'm awfully sorry to bother you on your day off but there's been a terrible accident at the bakery and the foreman on duty today phoned me and then I realised I didn't know what to do and so I couldn't decide whether or not to phone and then I decided that despite it being father's day you would prefer it if I phoned you instead of leaving it until tomorrow to tell you but then I worried that what if actually I should just wait until tomorrow and so then I-"
"-Take a fuckin' breath before you pass out, Ollie," Alfie interrupted him curtly. "I didn't really catch most of what you said but I should have known it was pointless leavin' you as the emergency contact because every fuckin' time there's the slightest problem you never know what to do. I mean look at last month when a bird got inside the barrel room. You would have thought it was a fuckin' swarm of wild lions the way you all went on. Listen, I'll be there in fifteen minutes alright? Just try not to blow the fuckin' place up or flood it or anythin' else stupid like that, yeah?"
Alfie slammed down the phoned and ran a hand across his face in agitation. Cyril looked up from his bed and began to wag his tail excitedly as though he knew he was going out.
"Come on then you daft mutt," Alfie bent over and scratched him behind the ears affectionately. "At least one person aint abandoned me today, eh?"
Where the fuck is everybody? That was Alfie's immediate thought and as he walked up the steps to the front door of the bakery. There were no lights on which was very strange, and the usual chatter of men working had turned into silence. What the bloody hell was going on here? Yanking open the door angrily, Alfie's boots stomped loudly through the seemingly empty building, his eyes roving from side to side as he searched the place for Ollie.
"Hello?" he bellowed. "Ollie? Where the fuck are you? Ollie?"
He was greeted once again with silence… or so he thought. He came to a stop besides the cellar door and when Cyril's paws quietened down, Alfie was able to make out murmuring coming from downstairs. Pulling out his small pistol, the one that he secretly carried at all times around the house even if Ava would kill him if she ever found out, he checked it was loaded and ready to fire at a second's notice before he began his descent down the stairs as quietly as possible. He was on edge, waiting and prepared for this to be another one of Sabini's ploys to get him alone. When would the stupid fuck learn that Alfie had grown wise to his tricks years ago? He reached the bottom step and all of a sudden the lights were turned on and there was a raucous shout of 'surprise' that his ears didn't quite register at first. Which was why all hell had broken loose and Ava was giving Alfie a look that would kill a lesser man he was sure.
"Why is Daddy going to shoot us?" Soraiya sobbed, screaming and hiding behind her mother when Alfie reached towards her with his hands outstretched, forgetting about the gun in his right hand. "Is it because he doesn't like the party, Mummy?"
"Ssh, you're not supposed to tell him about the party cos it's a surprise," Hannah whispered loudly.
"It's not a surprise anymore because he's here," Raisa rolled her eyes. "You're such an idiot, Hannah."
"Raisa!" Ava and Alfie pulled a face at her simultaneously.
"What?" Raisa exclaimed indignantly. "It's true."
"Dada Dada," little Jacob babbled, holding his arms out to his father who took him easily from his mother's arms once the gun was safely pocketed.
"Hello my little mate," Alfie grinned as Jacob pulled at his beard with his slobbery wet fingers. "What you lot doin' here then? You planned a surprise for Daddy?"
"Yes and you almost ruined it by shooting us all to death," Ava pulled a face at him, disentangling Soraiya's arms from around her legs.
"I never did," Alfie tutted at her, rolling his eyes just like Raisa did. "And anyway, can I help it if you took me by surprise? Ollie called me to say there was an emergency and then I turn up here to find the whole place empty apart from you lot hidin' in the cellar like criminals."
"That's the whole point of a surprise party, Dad," Raisa raised an eyebrow, picking up a cheese sandwich and shoving the entire thing in her mouth. "You're not supposed to know about it otherwise it wouldn't be a surprise."
"Oh really? Thank so much for tellin' me, Raisa, otherwise I never would have known," Alfie looked at her pointedly. "So this is where you lot snuck off to this mornin'? You know I actually thought you fuckin' forgot all about me."
"We would never do that, Alf," Ava wrapped her arm around his waist and rested her head against his shoulder. "You're the backbone of this family and we decided that for everything you do for us, this father's day you deserved something special."
"I told Mum we should have had your surprise party in Margate but she said no," Raisa commented, throwing a look at her mother that belonged on a teenager and not a nine year old girl.
"And I said we should have it here because we could get Uncle Ollie to phone you with an excuse and then you could shout at him. So then you get two presents; a party and to shout at Uncle Ollie," Soraiya giggled.
"Always knew you was a right clever one, my little Soraiya."
"So you like your surprise then?" Ava smiled. "I know it's nothing amazing but I thought it was something a little different than the usual father's day breakfast in bed at six in the morning."
"Yeah the breakfast in bed that I never get to eat cos these little monsters inhale it before I even get a look in," he pretended to narrow his eyes at them all before looking back down at his wife. "I love it, Ava. Even more than that, I love you. All of you."
"Daddy, Daddy come and see your presents!" Soraiya waved him over excitedly to a table laden with food and presents before he could give Ava the kiss he really wanted to.
"Yeah, and look Daddy, I made your cake all by myself," Hannah smiled, taking his hand to lead him over. "Mummy helped me measure things and put it in the oven, but I mixed it and decorated it all by myself."
"That's beautiful, Hannah bear," Alfie smiled proudly at the chocolate cake with questionable pink and green piping around the outside. "I'll be givin' you a job in the bakery upstairs the second you leave school if you carry on makin' things like that."
"You haven't even tasted it so how do you know if it's job worthy?" Raisa muttered.
"Ah, but I know it will be delicious cos your sister made it," Alfie winked at Hannah before dropping a kiss onto the top of her head.
The girls gathered around him, shoving different bits of food at him along with cards and presents all accompanied by animated chatter that once would have made his head spin. But the truth was that now Alfie Solomons was most definitely used to being surrounded by females. Although that didn't mean that sometimes he didn't crave a little more male company.
"What are we gonna do, eh Jacob?" Alfie turned to the little boy in his arms; the one who was the spit of him as a nipper. "Outnumbered by girls in this house, aint we? Well, unless you count Cyril and then we're only outnumbered by one I suppose."
"For now," Ava said quietly, appearing beside him. She took his hand and placed it on her stomach with a smile. "Perhaps this one will be a boy and then it'll be even."
Alfie's mouth hung open for a second but then he quickly gathered his wits once more and handed Jacob to Raisa. He pulled Ava into his arms and swung her around, much to the delight of the girls, and only set her back on her feet when she kicked and squealed for him to do so.
"We're havin' another baby?" he breathed in wonder.
"I'm having another baby," Ava smirked.
"Oh shut up," Alfie grinned, brushing his lips against hers softly. "You wasn't complainin' when we made it."
"How did you make it, Daddy?" Soraiya asked innocently.
"You don't make babies, stupid," Raisa scoffed. "The stork delivers them."
"Well then how come Soraiya, Jacob and the new baby were all in Mummy's tummy?" Hannah frowned.
"That's because…" Raisa screwed up her face as she tried to think of a logical answer, but despite the furious tick tocking of the cogs inside her head, she drew a blank. "You know what, Dad? How are babies made?"
"Erm… ok… so," Alfie was well and truly stuck and looked to Ava for help. "So basically Daddy gives Mummy a hug and that makes a baby grow in Mummy's tummy, yeah?"
"But you hug Mummy lotsa times every day so does that mean there's lotsa babies in there?" Soraiya frowned.
"No," Alfie shook his head. "No, cos these hugs, right, are like special hugs you see."
"Special how?" Hannah asked.
"Special as in like, when me and Mummy are in bed I give her one of my special cuddles and, erm, well, yeah that's it really."
"Well, I think that really you should stop giving Mum those special cuddles," Raisa decided. "Cos I got up to go to the toilet the other night and I heard Mummy crying. When I peeked through the door I saw you on top of Mum and she was crying like she was hurt."
"Your special hugs hurt Mummy?" Hannah was aghast.
"Yep," Raisa nodded knowingly. "And I nearly said something but then Daddy did that groan he makes when his back hurts and then he rolled over and left Mummy alone so I went back to bed."
"Ok that's enough of that story," Ava muttered, her face flushed bright red as she refused to meet a grinning Alfie's eye. "Let's go and have some of that cake before the icing melts."
"The icing won't melt, Mum," Raisa argued.
"Just listen to your mother, alright?" Alfie pointed at her.
As the children scarpered off to get their food, still muttering to themselves about babies and special hugs, Alfie wrapped his arms around Ava, cupping her face and rubbing his thumb along her bottom lip.
"Are you happy?" he asked.
"About what? The baby?"
"Mmhmm," he nodded. "I know you didn't necessarily want another one yet we're havin' one."
"I was upset at first," Ava admitted. "Well, more overwhelmed than anything else because Jacob's still so little, but then I thought about how lucky we are to be blessed with four beautiful that there's no way I could be upset about this one."
"Yeah and let's face it, you and me both know that you can't resist my special cuddles so you can't get annoyed by the consequences," Alfie teased.
Ava slapped his chest playfully and Alfie chuckled to himself as he bent down to kiss her properly. He smiled against her mouth when he heard Raisa's comment of absolute disgust followed by Hannah's declaration that Mummy and Daddy kissing was sweet.
The day might have started off shit, but this was without a doubt the best father's day ever.