I jump a mile, and feel myself start to hyperventilate. Mum is at the window, staring in, her face like some monstrous demon. I mean, I’ve never seen her look so furious. “Chris!” she’s yelling now. “COME HERE! I’VE CAUGHT HIM RED-HANDED!”
How is she even up there? The windows of the playroom are like, eight feet off the ground outside.
I glance at Frank, and he looks genuinely a bit freaked out. He’s closed down LOC, but she saw it. I mean, there’s no way she didn’t see it.
“You’re for it,” I say.
“Shit.” Frank scowls. “I can’t believe she would spy on me.”
“Chris!” Mum is yelling. “Help! I…Arrrgh!”
Her face disappears from the window and there’s a loud crunch.
Oh my God. What just happened? I leap to my feet and run to the back door. The window of the playroom backs onto the garden, and as I head out, I can’t see Mum anywhere. All I can see is Felix’s playhouse, pulled up to the playroom window. But the roof seems to have broken, and—
Mum’s feet are poking out of it, still in her high heels.
Frank arrives on the back step, and sees what I’m looking at. He claps a hand over his mouth and I nudge him.
“Shut up! She might be hurt! Mum, are you OK?” I call, hurrying over to the playhouse.
“Anne!” Dad has arrived on the scene. “What happened? What were you doing?”
“I was looking in the window,” comes Mum’s stifled voice. “Get me out of here. I’m totally wedged in.”
“I thought standing on the playhouse was a bad example to Felix, Mum,” says Frank blandly, and I hear a furious gasp.
“You little…” It’s probably a good thing Mum’s voice is muffled at that point.
It takes me, Dad, and Frank together to haul Mum out of the playhouse, and I can’t say it improves her mood. As she brushes her hair down, she’s shaking with fury.
“Right, young man,” she says to Frank, who is staring sullenly at the floor. “Well, you have cooked your goose. You are hereby banned from playing any computer games for…what do you think, Chris?”
“One day,” says Dad firmly, just as Mum says, “Two months.”
“Chris!” says Mum. “One day?”
“Well, I don’t know!” says Dad defensively. “Don’t put me on the spot.”
Mum and Dad go off in a huddle and start whispering, while Frank and I wait awkwardly. I could go inside, I suppose, but I want to see how it all works out.
This is pretty lame, though, having to stand here while they whisper things like “Really get the message across” and “Make it count.”
When I’m a parent I’m so going to work out the punishment first.
“OK.” Dad eventually emerges from the huddle. “Ten days. No computer, no phone, nothing.”
“Ten days?” Frank gives Dad one of his death-ray, please-die-now stares. “That is so out of proportion.”
“It is not.” Mum holds out her hand. “Phone, please.”
“But what about my teammates? I can’t just let them down. All that bullshit you give me about team spirit and ‘all pull together’? And now I just let the side down?”
“What teammates?” Mum looks confused. “Is this the cross-country team?”
“My LOC teammates!” says Frank. “We’re practicing for the tournament, like I’ve told you a billion times.”
“A computer game tournament?” says Mum, in supreme disdain.
“The international LOC tournament! The prize pot is six million dollars! That’s why Linus comes round the whole time! What do I say to him?”
“Tell him you’re busy,” says Mum crisply. “In fact, I’d rather Linus didn’t come round anymore. I think you should find some friends with wider interests. And he upset Audrey.”
“Linus is my friend!” Frank looks like he wants to explode. “You can’t ban my frigging friends!”
OK, “frigging” was a mistake. I can see Mum drawing herself up like a cobra ready to strike.
“Please don’t swear, Frank,” she says icily. “And yes I can. This is my house. I control who comes in and out of it. You know Audrey had an attack when he was here?”
“She won’t have any more attacks,” says Frank at once. “Audrey’s getting used to Linus, aren’t you, Audrey?”
“He’s OK,” I say weakly.
“We’ll discuss it,” says Mum, giving Frank another icy stare. “For now, can I trust you to carry on with your homework tonight, and not produce another power cable, or do I have to cancel my birthday dinner, the one Dad and I have been looking forward to all month and which has already been half-ruined?” She looks at her legs. “My tights are totally ruined.”