The florescent lights are too bright. The constant changes of music as they walk past open door ways are deafening. Men moan, women whine and shout and children are running round, crying, throwing tantrums or a combination of all three. There's a constant rumble of other noises that can be heard over the chaos. Bells, whistle, nursery rhymes and machines. Its never ending.
Charity sighs for what feels like the thousandth time, she loves Vanessa, she really does but right now she could kill her. She had expected to spend a rare Saturday off curled up on the couch in front of the telly; a family film, all the chocolate she could stomach and a take away. Her fiancée however had other ideas that accumulated in dragging her round Hottens shopping centre, Moses and Johnny in tow. She cursed the two teens in her head, both opting to spend the day at wishing well with Samson. They stood in yet another children's clothes shop, watching as Vanessa picks matching outfits for the boys. The pair have started to fuss. Board of waiting and walking, both hungry and sleepy.
"Ness I think we need to start thinking about getting these to terrors home" Charity whispers as she catches Moses by the collar, temporarily stopping a game of cops an robbers.
"We've only been here two hours Charity. The boys need new clothes and we need to pick a birthday present for Noah."
Vanessa hadn't even looked up from the rails. Holding a blue polo shirt up and adding it to her basket.
"Boy's I'll make you a deal, if you can be good while Mummy and Mummy Charity do some more shopping we can get a surprise"
Both boys immediately stop there chase, Moses wonders over to Vanessa grabbing the handle of the basket. Johnny hangs back and reachers up for Charity's hand. She takes it carefully rubbing her thumb over his small knuckles.
"Let's get this over with Johnny-Bobs" She winks
"Then surprise" he whispers looking up hopefully.
"Then a surprise" She whispers.
Three hours had past. The younger boys starting to flag. Charity carries Johnny on her hip, his fingers twisting round a curl as he snuggles into her shoulder. Moses walks along side her, asking constantly when they'll get there surprise. Vanessa suddenly stops, turning slightly to face the front of the shop. Charity follows her gaze, looking back at Vanessa eyes wide. There in all its yellow glory was her worse nightmare. Build-a-bear workshop.
Her fiancé smiles.
"Here we go boy's, your surprise"
Jonny lifts his head slowly from her shoulder, a small smile appearing on his lips. Moses runs towards the entrance, Charity watches as her fiancée scoops him up, tickling him before setting him on her hip an walking towards her.
"Whatcha think Johnny"
"Gonna make a bear" he smiles.
"Yes Mr you are. Now boys one bear each yeah? And one outfit"
Charity lowers Johnny to the ground, Vanessa mirroring her action. Both boys clasp hands, talking excitedly. Vanessa links her fingers through the taller women's, kissing her cheek.
"We'll be in here less that half hour"
Charity laughs and shakes her head.
"You mean 100 hours and a million tantrums later"
Vanessa kisses her softly, rubbing her nose against the taller women.
The store is just as bad as Charity remembered it. There's kids everywhere screaming the place down when they don't get there own way. It has been the same when they had brought Jack for his birthday last year. He'd thrown a strop in the middle of the floor because he couldn't have all of the Marvel outfits for his bear. On seeing there older cousin, the two younger boys had followed suit kicking an screaming before both her and Debbie practically carried them out leaving Vanessa to pay.
She snapped out of her day dream by a small tug on her jumper. Looking down she sees Johnny a look of fear across is small features. She kneels down, wrapping an arm around his waist and manoeuvring him on to her knee.
"What's up kid" she asks, kissing the side of his head.
The young boy turns in her lap, reaching up to play with her hair.
"I don't no what to choose an what if pick the wrong one mummy?"
She squeezes him a littler tighter as she battles for the right reply in her head. She glances up to see Moses dragging Vanessa around the different displays, talking about the pros an cons of each body. He picks one up and snuggles it against his nose before unceremoniously throwing back into the box.
It amazes her how different the boys are. Moses goes in like a bull in a china shop. His mind is on a one way track. The track is just about the surprise and will be forgotten about with in a couple of days. He'll look around quickly, before choosing the first one he saw anyway. Johnny always goes into these things with his heart. He wants to do this right and take his time. Picking the perfect teddy, the perfect outfit so that the bear will quickly become his best friend. He'll agonise over the other stuffed animals not having a home and will quickly be soothed by the promise of another visit.
"How about we have a little look? See which one takes your fancy?"
He nods enthusiastically, hopping down from her knee and grabbing her hand. He pulls her over to a row of standard looking animals. She picks up a bear and hands it to the little boy. She clears her throat.
"Hello there Johnny, would you like to take me home?"
The little boy laughs at the high pitched voice. Eyes twinkling. Vanessa follows the sound and her heart swells as the sight.
" Sorry but I has one of you. I think I wanna a manimal coz my mummy is a vet"
He hands the bear back to Charity, tears forming in his small eyes. Charity quickly guides him over to the animal display. An array of wild and domestic animals stare back at them. She bends down towards him, rubbing his back encouragingly.
" Any of these look like the one Johnny-Bobs?"
His eyes run along the shelves, coming to an abrupt halt. Charity tracks his view and lands on a small penguin. Its big blue eyes staring back. She stands, still maintaining contact with his back and takes the penguin out of the box. The young boy takes it, rubbing his thumb and finger over the fur.
'This one please Mummy Charity"
The sight of Charity with her son. There son. Is overwhelming. When they had first started fooling around she never imagined this. A family day shopping, treating the boys for being good or watching The Charity Dingle melt at the sight of the young boy struggling and trying everything in her power to make him laugh. This is all she had wanted for the young a boy a second parent who would love him and protect him and make him laugh.
Vanessa catches Charity's eye, a wink thrown her way before she cocks her head to the side motioning for Vanessa to turn round. There elbow deep in one of the boxes is Moses his legs kicking in the air. Her legs move quickly, dragging the older boy back to standing my his ankles.
"Moses how many times, feet on the floor".
"But I want that elephant right there mummy" he reasons pointing deep into the box
"Baba there all the same until you put the stuffing in"
"But that one looks sad and he's all squashed"
Vanessa sighs and reaches into the box pulling out the patchwork elephant by his ear. He takes it rubbing the shaggy fur against his nose, the only way he will fall asleep, before throwing it back in. An in a flash he's gone pulling out another body from another box. She hears a small laugh and turns towards it to see Charity making voices with the bears. There son laughs before moving on.
She sometimes wishes that Moses was more like Johnny. She would love to take the time to properly look. But instead he's off a million miles an hour. His hands touch everything and his little legs climb until he can reach what he wants. Suddenly he stops,his eyes wide. Vanessa kneels beside him, brushing the hair out of his eyes.
"What have you seen little man?"
He points upwards with his small chubby fingers. The tip landing on a cow. Vanessa reached over the lip of the box passing the body to her little boy. She watched as he takes its ear an rubs it against his nose.
"This one please mummy"
They meet back up at the stuffing station. Both boys proudly showing each other there chosen friend. Vanessa rests her head against Charity's shoulder feeling the small kiss that was pressed there.
"How was your picking experience?" Charity chuckles
"Stressful, he just never stops does he? You two looked like you were having fun"
"Yeah well, he's just like his mum isn't her, needs everything to be perfect".
There's a small smile against her hair line an she tightens her grip around the taller women waist. They shuffle forward closer to the machine, the barrel of fluff turning wildly. They make it the front of the que, a young girl, a bit to sunny for Charity starts to talk to the boys.
"Hello there, I'm Kate what are your names?"
Moses starts talking immediately talking animatedly about the cow. He hands over the toy cow his foot hovering over the pedal. As soon as he can he presses down hard, laughing as the pair his pulled and pushed onto the shoot, his body starting to take shape. He kisses the heart half heartedly, jamming it into the soft material. As soon as its stitched he's off pulling outfits off the rails.
Johnny hangs back, wringing his hands in front of him. Charity places her hand on his shoulder, rubbing small circles against his t-shirt.
"You gonna tell Kate your name?"
Johnny whispers his name at the young girl his eyes flicking between her an his mum.
"Well Johnny shall we make your new friend all cuddly, if you pass him to me a put your foot on this peddle we can make him fat."
He steps forward hesitantly placing his small foot on the peddle, the machine wurls into action. The look of concern on his face makes both women chuckle as he watches the bear come to life. Kate asks him to remove his foot of the peddle as she holds the penguin up for him to see.
"Now we need to put a little heart in him and sow up his tummy. So make a wish an then kiss the heart an we can put it in there"
She hands him a small red heart, he holds it against his chest, his eyes tightly shut as he makes his wish. He places the heart in the teddy and watches carefully as she sows him up.
"Mummy its like you when you make animals better"
Vanessa ruffles his hair, kissing his crown as she does so.
The choosing of clothes is a whole new challenge for both boys. Both unsure and undecided even after scanning the rails for 10 minutes. Both had declined the shower station, apparently cows an penguins don't have baths or showers or even brush there teeth.
Vanessa is wresting the penguin into it's 8th outfit change. The table was starting to resemble a scene from Rupauls Drag Race. He'd been a firefighter, a cow boy, a farmer, James Bond to name just a few. With one final tug over its head, Johnny settled on his latest outfit of choice, a pair of dinosaur pjs with matching slippers, she passes the teddy to him as he cuddles him tight.
"He needs a name now Mr"
He holds the toy away from him staring into its bright blur glittery eyes.
Moses had found it slightly easier to choose. The cow has only gone threw four outfit changes including a footballer and doctor before finally settling on the cowboy outfit. It was only when he sat at the computer picking a name the he saw Johnnys teddy in his dinosaur outfit that he changed his mind. Charity plonks him next to Vanessa removing the cow from his grasp, picking up a small hanger she starts to change him. Annoyance gracing her features.
"What you gonna call him Moz"
He holds his head in his hands, his eyes shut tightly in concentration.
£60 later there walking out of the shop, two boxes in both boys hands. Charity is still mumbling about the price of the bloody things but she can't help but smile as both boys carefully carry the boxes in front of them.
"Babe why don't you go an get these rascals in the car, I'm just gonna run the hole in the wall".
She kisses Vanessa lightly, kissing both boys on the head, warning them to be good. She watched as her little family walk away, her heart full.
She makes her way back into Bulid-a-bear picking up the small goat teddy she had seen earlier. She goes threw the motions of stuffing him. Her wish that her family will always be this happy, she kisses it softly placing it into the centre of its chest. She picks up the yellow rain coat and wellies, making sure that its fits him.
She takes at seat at the computer and types in a name she knows will bring a smile to her fiancée's face. Augustas.
She pays another extortionate of money, cursing again under her breath. She walks quickly to the car, slowing as she approaches. She opens up the passenger door blue eyes looks at her quizzically.
"Where have you been?"
She takes her hands from behind her back placing the goat in her lap. She hands her the adoption certificate a broad smile appears.
"I finally got to see the goats, it's never Brian or Alan is it?"
They both laugh, Charity dipping her head towards the smaller blondes lips, she kisses her softly, pulling back slightly.