“What?” Frank gives her his special, blank, I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about look, which, actually, is really annoying.
“Don’t play ignorant with me! Don’t you dare play ignorant!” Mum is breathing really hard by now. “My friend Arjun looked at your machine today. And what an interesting story.”
“Who’s Arjun?” Frank scowls.
“A computer expert,” says Mum triumphantly. “He told me all about you. You’ve left quite the trail, young man. We know everything.”
I see a flicker of alarm pass across Frank’s face. “Did he read my emails?”
“No. He didn’t read your emails.” Mum looks momentarily distracted. “What’s in your emails?”
“Nothing,” says Frank hastily, and glowers at her. “Jesus. I can’t believe you hacked into my computer.”
“Well, I can’t believe you’ve been lying to us! You’ve been up at two a.m. every night this week! Do you deny it?”
Frank shrugs with a sullen expression.
“If Arjun says it, it must be true.”
“So it is true! Frank, do you understand how serious this is? Do you? DO YOU?” she suddenly yells.
“Well, do you understand how seriously I take LOC?” he yells back. “What if I become a professional gamer? What will you say then?”
“Not this again.” Mum closes her eyes and massages her forehead. “Who were you playing with? Do I know them? Do I need to call their parents?”
“I doubt it,” says Frank sarcastically, “since they live in Korea.”
“Korea?” This seems the last straw for Mum. “Right. That’s it, Frank. You are banned. Banned, banned, banned. Forever. No computers. No screens. No nothing.”
“OK,” says Frank limply.
“Do you understand?” She stares at him, hard. “You’re banned.”
“I get it. I’m banned.”
There’s a silence. Mum seems dissatisfied. She’s peering at Frank as though she wanted to hear something else.
“You’re banned,” she tries again. “For good.”
“I know,” says Frank with elaborate patience. “You told me.”
“You’re not reacting. Why aren’t you reacting?”
“I am reacting, Mum. I’m banned. Whatever.”
“I’m locking this computer right away.”
“I get it.”
There’s another weird, tense silence. Mum is studying Frank closely, as though searching for the answer. Then suddenly her whole face seems to ping, and she draws breath.
“Oh my God. You don’t take this seriously, do you? You think you’ll get round it. What, you’re already planning how you’ll creep around the house at night and find your computer?”
“No.” Frank sounds sulky, which means Yes.
“You’re already planning how you’ll pick the lock?”
“You think you can beat us!” She’s quivering now. “You think you can beat us, don’t you? Well, beat this!”
She grabs the computer, which is pretty bulky, and heads up the stairs, trailing the cord.
“This is going. It’s going! I want it out of our house! I want it in smithereens.”
“Smithereens?” Frank springs to life.
“You’re banned anyway, so what does it matter?” Mum shoots back over her shoulder.
“Mum, no,” says Frank in a panic. “Mum, what are you doing?”
“You stay there, young man!” Mum’s voice is suddenly on a whole different level. She sounds properly scary, like she did when we were little kids, and Frank pauses, his foot on the step. I’ve never seen him look so freaked.
“What’s she going to do?” he says in a low voice.
“I dunno. But I wouldn’t go upstairs.”
“But what’s she doing?”
At that moment Felix comes bounding into the hall from the garden, in his dressing gown.
“Guess what?” he says in tones of joy. “Mummy is throwing the computer out of the window!”
I can’t believe she did it. I can’t believe she actually chucked Frank’s computer out of the window.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it might have been, because she suddenly got all health and safety and shouted to the neighbours to get out of the way, and then said to Dad that he should move the car if he was that worried.
Meanwhile Frank was lurching between total gibbering panic and trying to be one of those guys in the movies who talk the terrorist out of setting off the bomb.