"Happy birthday, sweetie!" Katy pulled Ruby into a tight hug, pressing a kiss to the top of her head and grinning as her daughter attempted to pull away. "Breakfast first or presents?"
The nine-year-old looked at her as though she was stupid. "Presents, duh…"
Laughing, Katy ushered her into the living room and watched as Ruby immediately began ripping the wrapping paper off her presents. By the time she had decimated the pile and there was a sea of paper covering the carpet, the doorbell was ringing and Glenda, Ronnie, Roxy and Matthew were on the doorstep with yet more presents for the birthday girl. They were closely followed by Jack and his family.
Muttering about her daughter being spoilt, Katy went to answer the door for the third time, rolling her eyes at her father as she passed him. At the sight of Tyler and his girlfriend standing on the doorstep, the blonde tensed a little but stood back to let them into the house anyway. She frowned lightly at the large box in Tyler's arms and the bin bag that Alicia was carrying, wondering what on earth he had bought Ruby.
As the three little girls immediately threw themselves at Tyler, Katy did her best to avoid meeting anyone's eyes. She busied herself tidying up the worst of the paper, keeping one eye on the situation unfolding in the middle of the room. When Tyler set the box down on the coffee table, she paused curiously.
"So this is a joint birthday present for all three of you." Tyler explained, opening the top of the box and ushering Ruby and the twins over to look inside.
At their chorus of delighted screeches, Katy's blood ran cold. When Ruby reached in and lifted out a kitten, she clenched her fists at her sides. When the twins followed suit and she found herself looking at a trio of kittens, Katy thought she was going to explode.
"Kitchen, now." She demanded in a low, cold tone, narrowing her eyes at her ex.
Shooting the girls a wink, infuriating the blonde further, Tyler followed her out to the back of the house. He leant against the island as she closed the door with a bang, no doubt under no illusions about how unhappy she was with his present.
"What the hell was that?" Katy demanded furiously. "Kittens?"
"They've been wanting them for ages!" Tyler defended himself quickly. "It's not like it's a whim."
"That isn't the point! Why the hell would you give them three kittens? Why do you think I didn't get them a cat? I don't have time to deal with one, let alone three!" She ran a hand through her hair. "You're so bloody selfish! I'm guessing you won't be offering to have them living with you?"
"I'm still looking for somewhere to live, so–"
"Didn't think so."
"We've bought everything they'll need." He tried, unsuccessfully, to placate her. "We've even paid the pet insurance, just in case. We'll pay to get them spayed and micro chipped, too."
"That's good of you. Still doesn't mean I'm happy about this. Three kids, three kittens, a bar…"
"As soon as I find somewhere, they can come and live with me, alright?"
"So why couldn't you wait until then to get them in the first place?" Katy asked petulantly.
"Because I didn't want to miss their birthdays." Tyler pointed out, as though it was obvious. "I didn't think you'd have such a problem with it."
"If you'd discussed it with me, like a responsible person, I'd have explained." She retorted. "Now I either have to be the bitch who made you take them back, or deal with them."
"How much trouble can three tiny cats be?"
The kitchen door opened, preventing Katy from answering his flippant question. She smiled tightly at Alicia, who was apparently doing her best (but failing) to keep a suspicious expression off her face, before excusing herself and going back into the living room. Ronnie caught her eye as she perched on the arm of her father's chair, squeezing Jack's arm as he shot her a quizzical look.
"We're gonna name them after Disney princesses." Ruby announced, carrying the fluffy ginger kitten in her arms over to her mother. "Mine's gonna be called Merida."
"Of course it is." Katy replied, unsurprised at her eldest daughter's choice. "Let me guess… Elsa and Anna?"
Sophie grinned at her mother, stroking the tortoiseshell kitten in her lap, while Jessica seemed completely mesmerised by the black and white kitten who was tumbling around on the carpet attempting to attack her toes. Huffing lightly, knowing that there was no way she could take the cats away from her daughters now, seeing how attached they already were, Katy forced a smile onto her face and did her best to be cheerful.
Under no illusions that Bank Holiday would be incredibly busy, Katy had arranged the rotas so that she and Tina had the night before off. With Isaac out with some friends, they took the opportunity for a quiet, relaxing evening on the sofa with wine, chocolate and a terrible movie that neither of them were paying the slightest bit of attention to.
Katy rolled her eyes. "What am I supposed to do, T? I can't tell them they can't keep them, can I?"
"But three kittens? What was Tyler thinking?"
"He wasn't." The blonde replied with a shrug. "Well, he was probably thinking about how many brownie points it would get him with the girls."
"At least they're cute." Tina pointed out, glancing towards the fluffy bed in the corner of the living room where all three kittens were curled up asleep. "More wine?"
"You've barely drunk anything. You feeling OK?"
"Yeah," Katy smiled and shrugged, "just not feeling it tonight."
Patting the younger woman's legs, which were flung over her lap, Tina grinned. "Prepping for all the free drinks tomorrow night?"
"How do you manage to score so many free drinks? It's not fair! Why do all the hot ones go after you?"
"You do alright." Katy laughed, nudging Tina lightly.
"We can't all be hot, gorgeous, beautiful, downright amazing blondes."
"Hey! You're hot, gorgeous, beautiful and downright amazing … you're just not blonde."
Tina snorted. "Yeah, right."
"What about that woman who comes in specifically to see you?"
Ducking her head slightly, the brunette laughed. "I dunno what you're talking about."
"Yeah, you do. Michaela? Melissa? Something like that. She's friends with that obnoxious blonde and the guy who always wears Hawaiian shirts."
"Not my type."
Rolling her eyes, Katy laughed softly. "So you're complaining that you don't get any attention, then when I point out there's someone who's very obviously interested in you, she's not your type?"
"You really think I'm beautiful?" Tina asked softly.
Katy nodded. "Course… the real problem with you finding someone is whether they'd be worthy of you, T. You've gotta make sure you pick someone as amazing as you are."
Tina made a sound of disbelief, ducking her head and hiding her face for a moment, before changing the subject. "How are you and Isaac doing, anyway?"
"Bit of a curve ball." The blonde muttered, looking away and focusing her attention on the TV. "We're fine."
"Yeah? I thought this whole moving in together thing was supposed to be so that you could spend more time together?" Tina pointed out. "Have you even spent one evening together since he moved in?"
Katy rolled her eyes again. "I'm busy and he likes nights out with his mates."
"That's OK with you?"
"I'm not his mother, T."
"I thought you said you were surprised by how well he'd taken to the stepdad role?" Tina said, wrinkling her nose in confusion. "I mean, you had a great time on holiday, right?"
"Yeah… but the novelty has definitely worn off." Her friend sighed. "I don't know if this is going to work out. We have different priorities and I'm not prepared to put anything above the girls."
"Are you sure you're not being a bit… well, a bit harsh about the whole situation? Don't take this the wrong way, but you are a bit unforgiving."
Laughing softly, the blonde shook her head. "I can be incredibly unforgiving," she agreed, "but my children are too important for me to worry about whether I'm being a bitch or not."
"I'm just worried you're going to end up alone if you can't compromise on–"
"I can't compromise on the girls, Tina." Katy pointed out bluntly. "They're my whole world."
"No, I know. That's not what I meant." Her friend assured her quickly. "I just meant that maybe you're being a bit hard on Isaac. He's taken on a lot and it must have been a huge culture shock suddenly ending up with a ready-made family."
"I never asked him for anything, except maybe taking the girls to school a couple of times. He suggested going on holiday and he suggested moving in. Neither of those things were my idea."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"Eurgh…" Katy huffed, shaking her head. "I'm so done with men. They're far more trouble than they're worth. Even the good ones…"
"Are you saying you're going to end things with Isaac?"
"No. No, I… I don't know."
"So… you're going to make things work?"
Exhaling deeply, Katy's mind drifted back to the information the doctor had given her that she'd been doing her best to ignore ever since. "I think I have to at least try."
"Well… either way. I've got your back, alright?"
Smiling, the blonde shifted so that she could lean her head on Tina's shoulder. "Thank you."