Which Frank will never understand in a million years.
He heads off and I switch over to You’ve Been Framed. Felix comes in to watch it with me and we snuggle up on the sofa together. Felix is like a walking, talking teddy bear. He’s soft and snuggly and if you press him in the tummy he laughs, every time. His head is a curly mass of blond like a dandelion clock and his face is constantly open and hopeful. You feel like nothing must ever go wrong for him, ever.
Which is, I guess, how Mum and Dad felt about me.
“So, how’s school, Felix?” I say. “Are you still friends with Aidan?”
“Aidan has chicken pops,” he tells me.
“Chicken pops,” he corrects me, as though I’m an idiot. “Chicken pops.”
“Oh, right.” I nod. “I hope you don’t get them.”
“I will fight the chicken pops with my sword,” he says importantly. “I’m a very strong fighter.”
I take off my dark glasses and look into his round, open little face. Felix is the only one I can cope with looking at, eye to eye. My parents’ eyes—forget it. They’re full of worry and fear and too much knowledge. And kind of too much love, if that makes sense? If I look at them, it’s like it all comes flooding back over me in a gush—mingled in with their anger, which is pretty righteous. I mean, it’s not directed at me, obviously, but still. It feels toxic.
Frank’s eyes are just a little freaked out every time he looks at me. It’s like, Help, my sister went nuts, what should I do? He doesn’t want to be freaked out, but he is. Well, of course he is. His sister hides inside and wears dark glasses—what else could he be?
But Felix’s blue eyes are as transparent and clear and soothing as a drink of water. He knows pretty much nothing except the fact that he’s Felix.
“Hello, you,” I say, and press my face close against his.
“Hello, you.” He squashes up even closer. “Do you want to build a snowman?”
Felix has a bit of a Frozen obsession, for which I don’t blame him. I can relate to Queen Elsa myself. Only I’m not sure I’m going to melt the ice away by some random act of love. Chip it away with an ice pick, more like.
“Audrey.” I hear Frank’s voice. “Linus is here. He sent you this.”
My dark glasses are back on as I raise my head from Felix. Frank is holding out a folded sheet of paper.
“Oh,” I say, nonplussed, and take it from him. “OK.”
As Frank heads away, I unfold the sheet and read the unfamiliar handwriting.
Hi. Sorry about the other day. I didn’t mean to freak you out.
I mean, oh God on so many levels. First, he thinks he freaked me out. (Which he did, but not because he’s freaky.) Second, he feels the need to apologise, which makes me feel bad. Third, what do I do now?
I think for an instant, then write underneath:
No, I’m sorry. I have this weird thing. It’s not you.
“Felix,” I say. “Go and give this to Linus. Linus,” I repeat as he stares at me with blank eyes. “Frank’s friend. Linus? The big boy?”
Felix takes the paper and looks at it carefully for a moment. Then he folds it up, puts it in his pocket, and starts playing with a train.
“Felix, go on,” I prod him. “Give it to Linus.”
“But it fits in my pocket,” he objects. “It’s my pocket paper.”
“It’s not yours. It’s a note.”
“I want a pocket paper!” He screws up his face to howl.
For God’s sake. In movies, they fix the note to a dog’s collar and it trots off obediently, no nonsense.
“OK, Felix, you can have a pocket paper,” I say in exasperation. “Whatever that is. Here you are.” I rip a page out of a magazine, fold it up and stuff it in his pocket instead. “Now give this one to Linus. In the playroom.”
When Felix finally leaves, I have no confidence that the note will reach its destination. It’s a thousand times more likely that Felix will feed it into the waste disposal or the DVD player or just forget it exists. I turn up You’ve Been Framed and try to forget about it.
But about two minutes later there’s Felix holding the note, saying excitedly, “Read it! Read the pocket paper!”
I unfold it—and Linus has added a new line. This is like a game of Consequences.
Frank explained. Must be tough for you.
I smooth the paper out on my knee and write:
It’s fine. Well, you know, not fine. It is what it is. Hope you’re winning. BTW, you were a great Atticus Finch.