“Here you are.” I pass the bowl to Felix. “You just had to ask nicely,” I inform Frank. “Try learning from your brother.”
Frank doesn’t move a muscle. Mum comes over and prods him.
“Frank? Darling? Can you hear me?”
“I’m fine.” At last he lifts his head, looking wan and pale. “Tired.”
Now that I look at him, he does have black shadows under his eyes. “I think I’ve been overdoing it,” he says weakly. “Homework and everything.”
“Are you sleeping well?” Mum peers at him anxiously. “You teenagers need sleep. You should be sleeping fourteen hours a night.”
“Fourteen hours?” We both stare at her.
“Mum, even comatose people don’t sleep fourteen hours a night,” says Frank.
“Ten hours, then,” she amends. “Something. I’ll look it up. Are you taking vitamins?”
Mum starts randomly pulling vitamin bottles out of the cupboard. TeenVit, KidVit, Well Woman, Osteocare…I mean, it’s a joke. None of us ever takes them.
“Here.” She plonks about ten capsules in front of Frank and another load in front of me. “Felix, sweetheart, come and have some magnesium.”
“Don’t want nesium!” he yells, and hides under the kitchen table. “No nesium!” He clamps his hands over his mouth.
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Mum swallows the magnesium pill herself, and sprays herself with something called Skin Enhancer, which has been sitting in the kitchen cupboard for three years, I know for a fact.
“You need some iron,” she adds to Frank. “And an early night. I’ve got a DVD planned for this evening, which we can all watch, and then straight to bed.”
“That sounds super-fun,” says Frank, staring blankly into the middle distance.
“It’s a classic,” adds Mum. “Dickens.”
“Dickens. Right.” Frank shrugs like, Who cares?
“At least we’ve got you off those wretched computer games!” says Mum, sounding a bit too bright. “It just shows, you don’t need to play them, do you? I mean, you’ve barely noticed, have you?”
“Barely noticed?” Frank finally lifts his gaze to meet hers. “Barely noticed? Are you joking? Barely noticed?”
“Well, it’s not like you’re counting down the days until—”
Mum stops abruptly as Frank lifts his sleeve to reveal a digital watch strapped to his arm.
“Sixty-one hours, thirty-four minutes, twenty-seven seconds till the ban is lifted,” he says tonelessly. “I’m not just counting down, all my friends are counting down. So yes, Mum, I have ‘noticed.’ ”
Frank can be pretty sarcastic when he wants to, and I see two little red spots appear on Mum’s cheeks.
“Well, I don’t care!” she snaps. “Tonight we’re all going to watch Great Expectations, as a family, and believe it or not, Frank, you’ll be amazed. You children think you know it all, but Dickens was one of the greatest storytellers ever, and you will be blown away by this film.”
As she strides off again, Frank slumps down further on the kitchen table.
“You are so lucky,” he says indistinctly. “No-one’s on your case. You can do what the hell you like.”
“I can’t do what the hell I like!” I say defensively. “I have to do this documentary the whole time. And now I’m supposed to go to Starbucks.”
“Dunno. Starbucks therapy. Whatever.”
“Right.” Frank sounds supremely uninterested. But then, all of a sudden, he sits up. “Hey. Can you tell your therapist you’ll be cured if you attend this year’s European Gaming Expo in Munich and you have to take your brother?”
“Phhhmph.” Frank subsides onto the table again. Mum’s right, he does look rough.
“You can have these.” I give him the last remaining dregs of Shreddies, which Felix has abandoned.
“Yeah, right. Soggy, third-hand Shreddies covered in Felix dribble. Thanks, Audrey.” Franks gives me a death stare.
Then, a moment later, he reaches for a spoon and starts shoveling them in.
MY SERENE AND LOVING FAMILY—FILM TRANSCRIPT
INTERIOR. 5 ROSEWOOD CLOSE. DAY.
Camera pans around the living room. It is in semidarkness. Mum is gazing raptly at the TV. Dad is surreptitiously on his BlackBerry. Frank is staring at the ceiling.
Music crashes from the TV. The camera pans to the TV screen. Black-and-white writing reads “The End.”