was a lazy Sunday afternoon, the lull before the storm of Monday morning madness
of alarm clocks, traffic jams and deadlines. The clock struck three and Rebecca’s
elbow still rested on the arm of the tapestry-covered sofa. With her fingertips
she began caressing the rough piping that ran along its seams. Simultaneously,
the toes of her left foot moved back and forth across the edges of the sheepskin
rug. This action Rebecca found comforting; it reminded her of being at home as
a child when she used to sit in the family sitting room, her toes playing with
the fringes of another kind of rug. Her mother would snap at her to stop it, so
of course she did it all the more.
Rebecca had a sudden whiff of the glue
that Katy was applying to make one of her artistic creations. Her daughter was
seated on a cushion right in the middle of the room, looking like an island, surrounded
by a sea of cardboard cut-offs, sequins, felt-tip pens, and pristine sheets of
white A4 paper that she had disobediently pinched from her father’s study. She
really should be working at the kitchen table, Rebecca thought, but I don’t have
the appetite for the outburst that might happen if my genius-daughter-at-work
is disturbed. Every three minutes and 50 seconds Katy got up to replay Kylie Minogue’s
version of ‘The Locomotion’.
“Why don’t you listen to the CD all the way
through, Katy?” her dad said, who was sprawled out on the other sofa. “You’d like
the other songs as well.”
“Nah, too boring.”
Rebecca glanced at David
and then said, “I could do with something to perk me up.” Her words trailed off
with a heavy sigh, and then a yawn. It was the first in a series of hints that
she would like him to get up and make her a cup of tea.
On the lamp table
next to the sofa, she noticed a letter that had been delivered a week ago, advertising
exercises classes and a slimming club. She had kept it on the table as a reminder,
or perhaps to conjure up the same kind of magical effect that people believe in
when they splash out on membership to a fancy gym without going near the place
more than once every two months.
“Have you seen this flyer?” she said to
her husband. “Just the thought of going for a workout makes me want to go and
lie down.” Once more she didn’t get a response. “Who’s going to make the tea then?”
was her third and most blatant attempt to get a drink before she died of thirst.
stood up. “I suppose it’s my turn. Again.” He went off into the kitchen while
Rebecca, the victor, snuggled a bit further into the sofa. Charlie, who’d been
asleep on the sheepskin rug, now started up with his own brand of baby chatter.
He was attempting to cover the whole repertoire of vowel sounds this afternoon,
like a singer performing warm-up exercises. Then, occasionally, he jammed his
fingers into his mouth to make a sound approaching an elongated ‘w’.
lay underneath a baby gym, which consisted of a tubular frame in patriotic colours
of red, white and blue and a top bar, from which dangled two clowns, one on a
swing and one in a position that Rebecca thought was called a pike. (It was a
long time ago that she had achieved her gold star award in the trampoline.) Once
Charlie made eye contact with Rebecca, his happy babbling began to turn into a
Does Charlie want feeding again?” Rebecca asked in the baby voice
that irritated them all, herself included. She bent down to scoop her son up.
he doesn’t want feeding again. You’ve only just fed him,” Katy said.
try – just in case he’s hungry.” In the kitchen she warmed through the mush of
potatoes and broccoli that Charlie liked and took it back through to be with Katy.
the baby was actually ready for a feed, which meant that Rebecca not only saved
face with her daughter, but showed that she had no need to feel guilty about sending
her husband to make the tea. David walked back in the sitting room that very minute,
her cup of Earl Grey with its delicate scent of bergamot wobbling in its saucer.
In his other hand he clutched a large mug. Rebecca gave him a warning look that
dared him not to put the cups down on the oak blanket box that served as their
coffee table. Its surface was already scarred by two rings where hot drinks had
been carelessly placed directly onto it.
“Thanks. You’re a treasure.” She
settled down to feed Charlie, knowing that her tea would be the perfect temperature
to drink in one go by the time he had had enough.
“Where’s Katy got to?” David
said, after a few minutes. The answer came from upstairs as they heard the sound
of their older child passing through the curtain in the doorway of her bedroom.
It was like those beaded curtains that used to be in fashion when Rebecca was
a child, but instead of beads this one was formed from a dazzling collection of
pink, purple and silver shimmering plastic squares. She couldn’t remember which
one of them had named it the ‘jingle-jangler’ but it was very apt.