Finding Audrey

Page 30

Then he refuses to eat anything else, because he wants to eat the pizza he made, even though he won’t eat it. I know. The logic of a four-year-old is beyond weird.

“I want to eat MY pizza!” he keeps wailing, whereupon Mum says, “Well, eat it, then! Here it is.”

“Nooo!” He gazes at it tearfully. “Nooo! Not that one! Not THAT one!”

Eventually he swipes it off the table altogether, and seeing it collapsed on the floor is too much for him. He descends into hysterical sobbing and Mum says darkly, “They probably gave him Fruit Shoots,” and hauls him off for a bath. (Half an hour later he’s all fluffy and clean and smiling and eating sandwiches. Baths are like Valium for four-year-olds.)

Then I’m put on make-sure-Felix-eats-his-crusts duty, so I’m stuck at the kitchen table. I kind of thought I might get to Frank first and warn him. But it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway, because Mum’s like a sentry on speed. She goes into the hall every five minutes and opens the front door, and once she actually goes into the street, scanning the horizon all around, as if Frank might fool her by coming from some different direction. She’s pretty revved up for seeing him. She keeps addressing the hall mirror with phrases like “It’s the deceit as much as anything else” and “Yes, this is tough love. It is tough love, young man.”

Young man.

Meanwhile I’ve kept my head well down, although I’m dying to ask Frank whether he’s really been getting up at two a.m., and whether Linus was playing with him. I’m just secretly eating a couple of Felix’s crusts for him, to speed things up, when I hear a yell from Mum. She’s out in the front drive squinting along the road.

“Chris! Chris! He’s coming!” She comes striding into the house, her head swiveling around on full alert. “Where’s your father? Where’s he gone?”

“Dunno. Haven’t seen him.”

OK, Mum’s totally wired. I wonder whether I should tell her about breathing in for four counts and out for seven, but I think she’d bite my head off.

“Chris!” She stalks out of the kitchen.

I creep forward so I have a view of the hall. I should really get my video camera, only it’s upstairs, and I don’t want to venture across the battlefield. Dad appears at his study door, holding his BlackBerry to his ear, pulling an agonised face at Mum.

“Yes, the figures were unexpected,” he’s saying. “But if you look at page six…” Sorry, he mouths at Mum. Two minutes.

“Great!” she snaps as Dad disappears again. “So much for a united front.” She peers out of the hall window. “OK. Here he comes. Here we go.”

She positions herself in the hall, her hand placed on her hip and glary eyes focused right on the door. After a tense ten seconds the door opens and I catch my breath. Frank saunters in, just the same as usual, and looks at Mum without much interest. I can see her draw herself up and take a deep breath.

“Hello, Frank,” she says in steely tones, which make me shiver, even though I’m not the one in trouble. But Frank has his earphones in, so I’m guessing he didn’t pick up on the steely tones.

“Hi,” he says, and makes to go past, but Mum pokes him on the shoulder.

“Frank!” she says, and gestures to his ears. “Out!”

Rolling his eyes, Frank takes out his earphones and looks at her. “What?”

“So,” says Mum, in yet more steely tones.



I can see her aim is to make him quake in fear with just that one syllable, but it hasn’t really worked. He just looks impatient.

“So? What do you mean? So what?”

“We’ve been expecting you, Frank. Dad and I.” She takes a step forward, her eyes like lasers. “We’ve been waiting for you for quite a while.”

OMG. She’s totally channelling a Bond villain, I realize. I bet she wishes she had a white cat to stroke.

“What’s my computer doing there?” Frank suddenly notices it, perched on the hall table with its flex coiled around the plug.

“Good question,” says Mum pleasantly. “Would you like to tell us about your computer activity over the last week or so?”

Frank’s shoulders sag, like Not this again.

“I was playing LOC,” he says in a monotone. “You caught me.”

“Just the once?”

Frank lets his school bag slither to the ground.

“I dunno. I’ve got a headache. I need some paracetamol.”

“And why would that be?” Mum suddenly loses it. “Would that be because you haven’t had any sleep this week?”

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